How Taiwan Became Chinese
So I’m caught up these days with an experiment (I hate humans!), work, and now even Christmas. So I decided to just throw up a link.
I found this interesting-looking online book: How Taiwan Became Chinese.
Has anyone read it? Any good? The title smacks of propaganda, but I’m willing to eat a little propaganda every now and then in the name of good education…
Taiwan is and has always been an inseparable part of China…case closed! No need for further comments of silly children’s books….by the way 沙发！
I may get flamed, but Taiwan wasn’t always “an inseparable part of China.” There’s no propaganda in this informative history book. Not particularly interesting, though, since it doesn’t deal with the most sensitive part of Taiwanese history: the Era of Japanese Rule, when… well, some positive things actually happened.
Lots of Taiwanese people now resent the notion of being called “Chinese” especially when abroad. Personally I don’t see why Chinese and Taiwanese identities should be mutually exclusive, but confusion with the PRC is always a problem for us. I blame the English language for lack of distinction between 华人 and 中国人.
I when through it quickly and found very little politics within the book. It read more like a loose Taiwanese history essay (Pre-Chinese occupation) than propaganda.
To How To Order Chinese Food Dot Com:
I am a Taiwanese and a 統派，but whenever I see or hear someone from mainland stating some thing like “Taiwan is and has always been an inseparable part of China…case closed!”. It just made me angry and don’t want to be a part of China. You need to know what you said sounded inconsiderate and arrogant. I am sure you are just stating your believe. But you are not doing anyone any favor by sounding like a bully.
Please note: I am not arguing about wither or not Taiwan is part of China. I just want to point out the loyalty of Taiwanese people need to be earned, it is not some thing you are entitled to.
Reading the preface and skimming some parts, it doesn’t look at all like it’s related to the modern debate about Taiwan and China. It’s just covers the history of Chinese settlement on Taiwan, hence the subtitle “Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century”. The author is pro-Taiwan in that he states in the preface:
I think it looks like an interesting read.
I’m pretty flustered how a foreigner (above poster) can be brainwashed into the closed extreme nationalistic mindset of the One-China policy. It’s really sad. I guess this is the Internet, where everything is possible.
I just checked Amazon. The book is scheduled for May 15 2008 release. Looks interesting, but it’s listed at $60.00 US.
With academic books, a large percentage of the time the book’s title is chosen/tweaked/edited by the publisher to make it more sell-able. The subtitle usually gives you a better idea of the author’s thesis, and in this case it doesn’t infer the Taiwan-China connection as much as the title does.
I think commenter #1 was being sarcastic.
This book caught my interest because I was recently reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, and I was surprised to learn what a significant role Taiwan played in the prehistoric Austronesian expansion.
oh great….. I didn’t realize How To Order Chinese Food Dot Com is an expat (and maybe being sarcastic). I will just sit in the corner until awkwardness fade.
Personally, I believe that the Chinese people deserve a culture that does not become fractured. This is why both Taiwan and Tibet should both be brought back into the family to ensure that the culture does not morph into a totally different entity and become corrupted. The insistence in using Traditional Chinese characters is a perfect example of how easily a culture can evolve away from the mainstream. China made a big mistake letting Mongolia become an independent state, let’s hope that Taiwan’s power-hungry polticians will someday agree to the desire of their people…re-unification.
Why is Mongolia’s independence a bad thing? THey’ve managed to maintain their culture and language, not much morphing there. Taiwan’s politicians are put there BY the people. If the people desired re-unification, it would happen. The desire of the people is de facto independence, as they have shared time and again in polls and voting patterns. How have the polls and votes been going in China? Oh, that’s right, THEY CAN’T VOTE.
Given that Taiwan was the source of the austronesian expansion, perhaps the Polynesian peoples have a better claim than the Chinese. So we’ll just send up a few waka filled with fearsome Maori warriors to reclaim their ancestral Hawaiki, and see how those Chinese upstarts like it…
(TFIC BTW, TFIC… NZ is a peaceful little country really).
Wow, Paul – I am all for land re-unification, but you actually believe having a monotonous culture is good for the Chinese people? Don’t you remember how diverse and beautiful our philosophy (and arts) are during 春秋、戰國? We as Chinese could enter the new era of 百家齊鳴 instead of falling back to 獨尊儒術 that kind of hell again.
I also believe having a portion of Chinese population using traditional Chinese is not a bad thing. If It is not hard for people in China to read traditional Chinese then why are we forsaken it? The grammar usage are the same, the sound are still the same. Then why don’t we keep our language’s living legacy? I do applaud mainland’s drive for our cultural evolution. And want to see China spend more time and effort to evolve our language. But don’t you think it would be wonderful if some small portion Chinese could read and write our old texts? I think it would be cool if some part in China all write in 小篆!
Note: I really hope Paul is not another expat.
Taiwan has not always been Chinese, obviously, it only became so after the Dutch had been kicked out by Zheng Chenggong. That’s what the book is about, and the title is good I think, although it can be mistaken for propaganda if you don’t look further than the title.
If Chinese culture should be ‘unfractured’, China should let Tibet go (and Xinjiang, for that matter), as that has its own culture, and make a point of taking over Singapore just as much as it makes a point of taking over Taiwan. And it was not Taiwan that decided to do things different when they kept using traditional, it was the mainland that changed their script.
Oh and what the above poster said, if the Taiwanese would want reunification, they would get it. Democracy, you know. There is a reason Chen is not allowed to hold a referendum on unification or independence.
I deliberately made my post a bit controversial in order to generate some debate. he he. No, i’m not another expat, just an average Canadian trying to get a sense of Chinese culture and language. I’ll definately take a look at that book…looks like an interesting read.
John, thanks for clearing that up…glad somebody got my sarcasm. At least it started some discussion though…..It’s always been my belief that Taiwan reunification is really a matter of face more than anything. The Chinese government actively drums up attention to the “Taiwan problem” in order to divert public opinion away from more important issues such as public education, pollution, and even traffic fatalities. There is no better way for a government to stay in power than to through diversion tactics, and the tactics of the current CCP in regards to Taiwan are strikingly analoguous to what the current American administration is doing in regards to the “War on Terror.”
When I was an early teenager, I had often wondered why independent Taiwan had to re-establish independence.
To the poster known as “Lu”: What did you mean by your (probably “ironic” statement that sought to connect “taking over Singapore” with any issue concerning the status of Taiwan? Perhaps you should go back to school for a few years. As far as I know, China has never exercised any form of suzerainty, much less sovereignty, over Singapore. So what exactly is the point you are trying to make? Shame on you.
“Lu”, in case you are still in confusion, Singapore has been influenced more deeply — and also in reality — by the Srivijaya and Majapahit empires, as well as by the colonial policies of the Dutch, the French, and of course the British, than by the newly-arrived Chinese coolies who were shipped in as immigrant labour. You make such a sweeping, “knowledgeable” statement of Singapore, can you please tell me what language Singapore’s national anthem is in without checking Wikipedia? Thanks.
If you want to see some interesting articles, here’s one:Is Taiwan a US Possession?
There are actually quite a few historical arguments for why China has no legal claim on Taiwan.
We don’t hear much about these arguments because neither China nor the United States want to fight over the issue. If, for instance, Taiwan really is a legal possession of the United States, I doubt the U.S. would even accept it because of the policy implications.
Yes, the title may sound like propaganda…until you read the preface.
What bugs me the most about discourse and propaganda regarding Taiwan is how hard most people try to over-simplify it. Indeed, it is probably precisely because Taiwan’s history is so complex that it is so interesting to so many people.
It may be partly because my degree is in history, but I can’t stand it when people try to over-simplify (or selectively interpret) history to suit certain ideological purposes…such as the modern PRC version of Manifest Destiny.
One of the positive aspects of books like this is to remind people that history is almost always a very long –and often inconveniently complex– process (in other words, God did not make Taiwan “an integral part of China” at Creation), and that culture is NOT monolithic.
Does the CCP/PRC really have the right to control every place where people speak Chinese? Then of course the Spanish government also has the right to control every place where people speak Spanish.
And by the way, what’s so special about Portuguese? Portuguese is at least as close to Spanish as the mother tounge of the vast majority of Taiwanese people is to Mandarin. So why does Portugal need their own seat at the UN?
And why should little no-count places like Kosovo or East Timor be independent? (Um…because China and Russia…who are concerned about losing control their own so-called rouge provinces…will use their UN veto??)
Many thanks to John Scott for his lucid, insightful post above. I now regret my angry outburst above against “lu” and his/her selective interpretation.
If I may try and respond to John Scott’s question, “Does the CCP/PRC really have the right to control every place where people speak Chinese?”: My understanding is that, as far as the Mainland is concerned, this is not what the Taiwan issue is all about. Never has been.
I think that too many people forget (for convenience, or otherwise) that from 1947, the KMT machinery based in Taipei purported to exercise sovereignty over ALL China including Beijing, Tibet, Mongolia, etc etc. I doubt if the generals in Taipei could have been very tolerant of any Taiwanese who dared to hesitate for very long over the notion of independence.
As far as I know, this continues to be the de jure situation as no regime/ administration which has held power in Taipei since 1947 has changed the status quo. Under the circumstances, it’s a bit of a no-brainer to find reasons why Beijing should find it impossible to take anything other than a very firm stand on the issue of sovereignty. How can Taiwan ever be a “no-count” place as far as Beijing is concerned, when the question of sovereignty continues to be kept in issue? Taipei, de jure, is still disputing the sovereignty of the PRC over the Mainland! I can only wonder whether Beijing would be less firm on the issue of Tibet, and in less of a hurry to sinicize that territory, if there weren’t a Dalai Lama outside its borders purporting to exercise moral authority within Tibetan borders…
Loud “popular” calls for independence have only been heard in Taiwan in relatively recent times. A cynical bystander might get the impression that the tone is being racheted up needlessly by those who are enjoying de facto independence but are also observing how Taiwanese life is being pulled into the life of the Mainland by the force of the Mainland’s undisputable economic (and even political) development. True, any serious crisis, such as the SARS epidemic, does underline how untenable it is for the Taiwanese to be outside the WHO system. But I do recall that during the SARS days, international help, in the form of the WHO, was indeed present in Taiwan where it was needed.
The military deterrents against any unilateral declaration of independence — or any attempts to reclaim sovereignty — are also very real, though. I hope that everything I have written here supports John Scott’s point that realpolitik is complex and that over-simplifying issues works against resolving conflict.
Taiwan’s claim of sovereignty over the PRC is entirely theoretical, I have a very hard time believing it’s front and center in the PRC’s internal debate.
Dear Jeffrey D, I’m not surprised that you have such a hard believing the ramifications of the “One China” issue. But as John Scott put it, earlier, the historical reasons why we find ourselves where we are, and how we got there, is always a complex question.
Up to 1990/1991, Taipei’s National Assembly still had a handful of MPs still living who — by ROC law — still retained the seats in the constituencies which they were representing in the Mainland at the time the KMT fled to Taiwan.
In 1991, President Lee, a KMT man and hence political heir to the generals, (quite sensibly) moved for the mandatory retirement of all of these MPs, as a cbm in line with his party’s sotto voce acceptance of the PRC’s de facto control over the Mainland that year.
But NO party, including his, has ever taken the additional, significant, step of re-defining the ROC’s borders in order to bury once and for all any claims of sovereignty over the Mainland. I would describe this as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach, one which Beijing appears to prefer judging by its clear displays of conciliation towards the “pan-blue” side. To an outsider like me, it looks like the “One China” proponents in Taiwan, i.e. these “pan-blues” are prepared to accept that there is one China, including BOTH the Mainland and Taiwan, but one which is governed by two independent and valid governments (PRC on the Mainland, ROC in Taiwan).
For now, the “one China” issue is fundamental to the issue of Taiwan’s identity. It’s a problem which won’t go away because it is a logical problem, virtually a conundrum, not a problem that is created by over-simplification. And the people on either side of the Straits have conducted their state affairs on that basis for enough decades (prior to 1991) for the status quo today to be as complex as it is.
The question of whether there is a national aspiration for independence in Taiwan is not as clear-cut as it may appear from watching sound-bites on cable TV news. The “pan-greens” are all for independence, but the last time I looked, there were also significant numbers of “pan-blues”, who want to be independent of PRC control but are convinced that Taiwan is an indivisible part of the Mainland. Complex, huh? I wish there were some way to reason away the things that you find difficult to “believe” (warning! “believe” — this is politics, history, not religion), but I guess life is complex.
Auntie, no need to get so upset, baituo, not like I am propagating that China take over Singapore! I think you understand my point now after what another poster said, but just to make sure: someone said that China should rule over all of ‘greater China’, over all countries that are mostly ethnically Chinese. I think that is not a sensible argument, and illustrated that with Singapore: it’s rather ridiculous to say that China should take that over, just because it’s a place with a lot of 華人 and Chinese culture. Hope this clears things up. If there are any other things I say that you are confused about, please ask me about them without telling me to go back to school or be ashamed of myself.
Dear Lu, thanks for extending that gracious hand of friendship, which I’m happy to shake. Merry Xmas. There is actually one thing which I am confused about: Why do Taiwanese use the case of Singapore (of all small nations!) to demonstrate any “logical absurdity” they perceive in the Mainland claiming sovereignty over Taiwan?
It seems to me (imho) that the two situations are conceptually so different that this case doesn’t help your argument at all. For one thing, the Mainland has never shown any interest whatsoever in claiming any kind of sovereignty over Singapore, arguably because there has never been any history whatsoever of “Chinese” sovereignty over my swampy little island.
In contrast to that, — apart from a mere fifty years or so under Japanese occupation — life in Taiwan seems to have been conducted on the basis that her status as territory (including her sovereignty) was somehow ineluctably linked with the Mainland. For nearly 250 years, from the time that the Dutch were “kicked out” (as you put it!), right until the early 1990s, shall we say? Looking at it from that viewpoint, as a foreign observer, it seems that a good part of Taiwan’s history has been interconnected with the identity of the Mainland. Unless of course you want to include the pre-Han, aboriginal, history of Taiwan in your calculation of that timeline, in which case you might have to face the argument that the aboriginals, as the people with the longest history in Taiwan, therefore have the greatest right to determine Taiwan’s destiny because they were there for thousands of years before the Europeans brought in Han Chinese to help develop their colony.
Hope this doesn’t sound rude! It’s not meant to be, but if you can help to clear up my greatest confusion on this thorny issue, I would sincerely be grateful. Thanks, lu!
Lu, I genuinely hope that you won’t be offended in any way by this last post. If anything, I fully understand what “j w chen” about loyalty having to be earned. For me, personally, the abstract idea of “reunification” doesn’t have any particular resonance. But when it comes down to specifics — eg.. the imaginary scenario of my nephew serving compulsory military service under any command other than the flag that I consider my own –, then feelings are very strong.
I do ask myself, however, whether “independence” and “sovereignty” are not something that has to earned in the eyes of the international community, just like “loyalty”. At least if the goal is membership in the community of nations, not merely the right to print pretty postage stamps. If I’m not mistaken, even the PRC did not attain UN membership until 1971, over 20 years after the establishment of the Republic. Full diplomatic relations with little Singapore were only established in 1990.
Right now, from where I am sitting, Taiwanese aspirations for explicit moves towards formal independence are not easy to assess or understand. Just on this thread alone, I can see “One China” views being expressed, alongside some very different views which seem to reflect a firm conviction that Taiwan’s independence has been a historical fact since… since it counted.
Auntie, the current political and ideological debates regarding relations between Taiwan and China are so complex that I hesitate to attempt to begin a discussion here, but…since YOU started it 🙂
I was being facetious to suggest that it boiled down to an issue of “Chinese culture = PRC/CCP control”, because that seems to be what it actually DOES boil down to to most people– especially those who have little or no idea about the current domestic political situation in Taiwan.
Now, I’m just speaking from my own experience (and not pretending to be an expert on anything)….but if you want to understand what happening in Taiwan politically, then you have to understand the huge paradigm shift that has occurred here in Taiwan during the past 10 years.
When people say “Taiwan’s claim of sovereignty over China, etc.”, they need to think about who in Taiwan they are talking about.
Because that has changed radically.
In the first place, the KMT is no longer the only party. Not only that– since 2000, it is now an opposition party. The ruling party is
the DPP, whose support base is mainly the Taiwanese whose ancestors have been in Taiwan already for a several hundred years. Yes, the KMT always asserted its legitimate right to control all of China (and it included Taiwan), but the DPP assets that the democratic government of Taiwan has sovereignty only in Taiwan.
While it was in control, the KMT refused to enter into any peaceful negotiations with the PRC, and strove to maintain military strength. Now that the KMT has become an opposition party, its high-ranking members regularly fly to China to make agreements with high-level PRC officials, and the KMT routinely blocks all military-procurement bills in the legislature.
The DPP, on the other hand, has tried to open up peaceful negotiations with China on all manner of economic, trade and
cultural issues, but the PRC is having absolutely none of that. After all, how can you begin negotiations with someone you have
already vowed to invade and crush?
In other words, while the anti-communist and authoritarian KMT was indeed a thorn in China’s side during the cold war period, the
democratic DPP is absolutely anathema to the current PRC leadership. While the PRC leaders may have hated the KMT for
pretending to have sovereignty over the whole of China, they have now realized that the DPP (which insists only on sovereignty in Taiwan) poses a far more serious ideological threat.
Similarly, the KMT realized that the DPP poses a much more serious threat to their control in Taiwan that any threat posed by the
PRC– which is why they are so eager to make deal on China’s terms, regardless of what the long-term effects to Taiwan may be.
The DPP leaders would dearly love to change the official name of the nation from the “republic of china” to the Republic of Taiwan,
but the whole world is warning that such a move would provoke China to use military force (thus legitimizing China’s threats to use military force).
Recently, –besides the USA– France, Russia and Austrailia have gone the furthest in parroting (and legitimizing) the PRC line.
In very basic terms, the issue boils down to the question of whether the international community is prepared to acquiesce to an authoritarian one-party state using threats of military force to subjugate a multi-party democracy with full civil rights. It’s really no more complicated than that.
All of the cultural and historical arguments are mere smoke-screens and obfuscation…that will make it easier for the rest of the world (now dependent on maintaining “good” relations with China) to go along with.
Dear John Scott, thanks for your post, which made a lot of sense to me. I am sorry to lob this last question at you as I hurtle out of my flat for a long family Xmas lunch, but: Do you think that the pan-Greens represent enough of the popular aspirations in Taiwan to carry off a referendum (let’s just imagine; it’s Xmas, so just imagine if there weren’t all those missiles aimed at Taipei and — possibly even — military targets in Japan).
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means that there is no party who wants to do it. The DPP would like nothing better than to change the ROC to the ROT, but the reason they have not taken concrete steps in that direction is because President Chen was compelled by the US to make five solemn promises to US officials (the so-called “five nos”), including that he would not make changes to the nations title, the flag (which carries the KMT logo), or the officail borders of the ROC. In other words, the riduculous pretensions were to remain in place in order to avoid “provoking” China.
Why does the PRC warn incessantly that such actions will provoke China to war? Because the PRC much prefers to deal with Taiwan within the now-outdated context of KMT mythology. In other words, the so-called one-China framework “means” that Taiwan and China are at least still part of the same nation. That’s why the PRC is now happy to deal directly with the KMT, because the KMT still officially maintains the one-China pretense, and the idea that Taiwan should be “re-united” with China (although “annexed to China” would be more correct usage).
So, as long as debate is contained within the “one-China” principle, the PRC can argue that Taiwan is a domestic issue. Framing it as a domestic issue also gives nations who find it inconvenient to take a firm position on issues of sovereignty, democracy and civil rights (including the USA) an “out”– a seemingly good excuse not to get involved.
Here’s an example of the recent ideological wrangling: There are still lots of government institutions and agencies, and many large companies in Taiwan still called China this-or-that. China Petroleum, China Air, etc. This year the government changed the name of the postal service from China Post to Taiwan Post. Provacative, eh? There were a lot of angry KMT supporters protesting. Why? They feel this is chipping away at the symbols they base their China-oriented identity on. The government changed the China to Taiwan in a few other state agencies, and got a series of stern warnings from the US State Department to stop provoking China.
The KMT government (during the period of one-party rule) built a huge temple dedicated to dictator Chiang Kai-shek in the middle of Taipei in the 70s. The government has recently changed the name to Democracy Hall, and that is a huge controversey. And provacative, of course.
Dear John Scott, thanks once again.
You didn’t exactly answer my question. Aren’t “they” (ie., the KMT supporters mentioned in your quote above) Taiwanese? If they are in fact Taiwanese, then what do you do make of their aspirations for their country? Must you be a Hakka or a Minnan or an Aborigine in order to have your wishes counted in a democratic country? My family has been based in Singapore for seven generations (since the mid 1800s), and although we are not indigenous Malays, we consider ourselves Singaporean.
To this bystander in faraway Singapore, the name-changing does give one pause. If only to ask oneself whether there is any substance behind these changes. Until about 1990 (1991?), Taiwanese currency was issued by the “Provincial Bank of Taiwan”. The notes were localized in that year so that money is now minted by the “Central Bank”. The original name — and even the date of the change, 1991! not 1950, not 1960, not 1970, not 1980…– makes me ask myself, as a thinking person, whether the history of Taiwan isn’t perhaps less cut and dried than the greens would have the world believe. It’s hard for me to imagine any country that is happy to rely on an excuse such as “the USA (!!!) told us that we can’t do such things” having an easy time of it establishing that they are de facto independent. Countries can print currency in any way they like, change the country name on a passport etc etc, but can they establish statehood in that way without more? I might as well start printing my own money and issuing my own passports.
This is not meant to be an insult to any Taiwanese brothers or sisters on this BB. But it is an honest explanation of some of the difficulties that “the world” may have in taking Taiwanese claims of independence at face value without finding out more. Not when the history of the territory is so complex. It seems like sovereignty has been a live issue ever since the last Dutchman was “kickled out” of Formosa.
It’s so easy to dismiss countries which don’t back independence (!!!) for bending to some sinister Chinese or US duress, but what if I put it to you that the pro-independence rhetoric scares the bejeezus out of many thinking people because these people seem to be totally focussed on “independence” but don’t seem to have any interest whatsoever in something very important that comes with independence, which is “being a full member of the community of nations”. At times, the tone of the rhetoric from the pro-independence folk would have me believe (and I don’t even believe Mahmoud Ahmedinejad when he’s raving!) that they don’t mind or care if whatever they say leads to a WW3 involving China, Taiwan, the US, and possibly even Japan. The “brinksmanship” of some of these people is very frightening to somebody who wasn’t brought up in a Taiwanese environment.
By comparison (even if you consider that they are the ones with the big guns), the Mainland can sound so reasonable. I am not disputing at all your exposition of the dramatic changes in the Taiwanese democratic landscape in recent years, but I can’t help wondering what you make of the Taiwanese who don’t hold pro-Independence views. Are they all traitors? Are they still Taiwanese? What do their votes count for in a democratic system?
Actually, the passage of the Taiwan-into-the-UN referendum is probably a bit of a long shot, but it is still considered by many to be of vital importance. I hope it passes.
Here’s a few links to news stories about Taiwan’s FIRST referendum in 2004. The reason I link to the Taipei Times, is because it is a good paper with pretty objective articles. Don’t waste time reading the China Post– the other big English-language daily. Its articles and commentary are so pro-China and pro-KMT, and so it provides nothing to help people gain a real understanding of Taiwan issues.
(Sunday, Mar 21, 2004)
The first referendum ever in Taiwan failed to pass yesterday, but scholars said it was not unexpected.
The first question in the referendum, which asked voters whether Taiwan should purchase more anti-missile equipment if China does not give up using military threats against Taiwan, only had a turnout of 45.17 percent (7,452,340 votes).
The second question in the referendum, which asked voters whether Taiwan should initiate negotiations with China and promote the establishment of a peaceful and stable framework, only had a turnout of 45.12 percent (7,444,148 votes).
Note that in 2004, the KMT was opposed on principle to the holding of any referenda whatsoever, and they urged their supporters not to participate at all and to boycott the referendum completey.
Even so, 45% of the total electorate voted yes for the DPP-supported proposals.
One reason that the participation in the referendum in 2004 was not high enough to pass was because the questions themselves are/were not especially controversial, and were proposals that most people would stand behind anyway. Controversey and a sense of urgency is what moves people to go vote in a referendum, and not quite enough people felt that the issues were particularly controversial or urgent.
Regarding the up-coming UN referendum, the KMT has now changed course and initiated its own referndum to counter the Taiwan-in-the-UN referendum. The KMT referendum has never been seriously promoted by the KMT and is regarded as simply a diversionary tactic the KMT hopes will bring down the Taiwan-in-the-UN referendum (by splitting the potential votes just enogh to prevent the referendum from getting the required 50%.
About how significant, practical or necessary the name changes are, and whether the KMT supporters feel Taiwanese, those of course are questions related to the complex identity issues in Taiwan.
As you know, the KMT didn’t come to Taiwan until Japan surrendered in 1945. The vast majority of the so-called mainlanders, who came to Taiwan between 1945-1950 –along with their children and grandchildren– identify with the KMT. But all of these people together are still a minority, so obviously there are certain segments of the native Minnan people who also vote for the KMT.
Do KMT supporters feel Taiwanese? I’m sure they have a certain degree of localized identity, at least their children and grandchildren do, but I think they have all been taught too well to equate cultural and national identity. Sure, the KMT candidates say “of course I’m Taiwanese!”, because otherwise they would be open to too much criticism.
But I think the reason they resist and protest each small step that the DPP has taken to emphasize Taiwan’s local national identity is because they see this as eroding their own elevated social and political status in Taiwan. During the period of martial law, the KMT just put pro-Taiwan troublemakers in jail. Now that the pro-Taiwan party is in control of the executive branch of the government, the KMT supporters have developed a very acute victim mentality.
For them, the rise of democracy and full civil rights in Taiwan was not felt as a victory, but as a defeat. It came at the expense of their privileged status, and meant the electoral defeat of their revered leaders. This hate for the pro-Taiwan groups makes it that much easier for them to rationalize cooperation with the entity they were taught all of their lives to hate the most: the CCP. If China took over and put the leaders of the pro-Taiwan movement back in jail, and put the KMT leaders in control of a Hong Kong-style (Beijing-controlled) provincial government, then the KMT leadership would probably like it just fine.
One big reason the KMT gets a degree of support from native Minnan people is because the KMT preaches that they will keep the “status quo” and not push the envelope about independence. The truth is that even many Minnan people don’t care overly much about independence, they just want a good economic situation, and of course expect to hold onto their civil rights. The KMT tells them that Taiwan can cooperate more closely with China economically while forever retaining the status quo. And that message is what many people want to hear.
Many others, however, do not believe that any status quo actually exists, and that China intends to change the situation anyway, and that the future development of democracy in Taiwan depends on making Taiwan’s present state of complete independence official. They feel that moving toward independence is what is the only way to permanently safeguard the democracy and civil rights that they have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve.
In what country that has achieved multi-party democracy and full civil rights after decades of brutal authoritarian rule do people still want to see statues and memorials to the dictator that oppressed them? Sure, you can find groups of people in Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. who still love and identify with past dictators, but most of us can also understand why the majority wanted the statues removed.
Would Koreans like their postal service to be called “Japan Post”? Would Ukrainians like to have “Russia Post”?
“…At times, the tone of the rhetoric from the pro-independence folk would have me believe…that they don’t mind or care if whatever they say leads to a WW3 involving China, Taiwan, the US, and possibly even Japan…By comparison (even if you consider that they are the ones with the big guns), the Mainland can sound so reasonable…”
I think the debate is extremely different, depending on your source of news. Inside Taiwan, you have the choice of the more-independent sources and the pro-KMT/pro-China media outlets, who call Chen crazy and who never criticize China or the KMT. Outside of Taiwan, it appears that it is very difficult to get any objective news of Taiwanese politics, especially in China and Hong Kong, of course, but even in the rest of the world. I think it’s precisely because the rest of the world gets their news of Taiwan filtered though Chinese sources. Events in Taiwan are reported by correspondents of the big news corporations based in China or Hong Kong (who learn about Taiwan through China-based news sources). The big companies will not waste money basing anybody here permanently. If there’s a really big event, say an election, then the China-based journalist will fly over for one day and get a few interviews and a 30-second video clip of him with the president’s office building in the background. Hardly enough time to gain adequate first-hand experience of the society. I often read commentary –in international news sources that I previously had respect for– that are hopelessly pro-China, and do nothing to help people understand the situation here.
Yes, they can make China’s threats to use military force to end democracy here seem so reasonable.
If I flew to your country today, how long do you think it would it take me to get a feeling for which papers are more objective, and which ones are following a certain party line? It would take a long time, I’m sure.
That was a really good post, John Scott, I learned a lot from it. Thank you!
Auntie, here’s a link to one of the most informative English-language blogs in Taiwan that I have seen:
A lot of good discusssion and commentary, links to other info, and photos, too.
Hey I have a better idea. I see in news that Chinese technology now-a-days is so advanced that they can do this and that (like shooting satellites off from the goddamn space, blocking anything that has the word TS massacre), can’t they build a big thingy to pull that trouble making nit-wit called Taiwan and attach it to the mainland? Then all will be mainland and we don’t have to ask the damn question to the Chinese speaking population “Oaaw…you speak Chinese? Are you from the Mainland or from Taiwan or Macao or Hong Kong? Eh Tibet? The free one or the non free one?”
Auntie, glad we could move this discussion to more civilized discourse. Merry Christmas to you too.
Firstly, I can’t speak for the Taiwanese, mostly because I’m not Taiwanese myself (not Chinese either).
Secondly, China did more or less rule Taiwan from the time the Dutch were beaten by Zheng Chenggong, but in 1895 Japan took over and ruled for 50 years. As to the aboriginals, they do of course have the oldest claim on the place, but giving the island back to them is just not a realistic idea.
As to sovereignty and independence, many are arguing about this. I personally think that independence and sovereignty are not dependent on what other countries think: if a country has its own government, its own army, its own taxes and whatnot, then it is in fact sovereign and independent, no matter what other people think of it, whether neighboring countries like it or not (not, in this case). Just because the PRC wasn’t in the UN till the 1970s doesn’t mean it wasn’t an independent and sovereign country. It just means that other countries were foolishly trying to make it go away by pretending it didn’t exist. In my opinion, something similar is now happening with Taiwan.
Good post from John Scott, and the link to Michael Turton is good. Turton is very much pro-independence, so his blog can give you a good idea of how the greens think.
Why not realistic?
Best sincere good wishes,
This is what I regard as the key issue of Taiwan independence. Ownership and control! It is not about ideology and culture, etc. Many pro-independence people are obsessed with the ideological difference across the strait. That is not the point. Wheather you are right or left leaning politically does not change your entitlement to your property. Many pro-unification people are also inclined to use Chinese culture as a supporting point. Again, this is off the real topic. Wheather Tainwan has a Chinese culture does not mean it is/will be part of China. You can purchase a house in a foreign country full of foreign culture inside. It is still your property.
IMHO, the argument boils down to one question: is the island a piece of land owned by people across the strait? Ownership and control are seperated. People on the island apparently have control over the land, but does that mean whenever you have control over something, you can declare “independence”, a status that deprives other people of any other potential ownership claim. This is actually a general question. For exapmle, can Hawaii people declare independence (whether they will or not is a different question) if they wish. Should the rest of Americans automatically accept it, because the people there have control over the land, and it is, let’s say, a democratic decision. In other words, can people in Hawaii make a democratic decision themselves that undemocratically deprive the rest of Americans the right of calling that piece of land part of the US?
Dear c.c., that is my question too. And nobody — not even John Scott, not lu –on this thread has answered my question: In a genuine democracy, what do you make of the aspirations of those who DON”T agree with the pan-Greens’ claims of independence, are fully enfranchised (unless you are thinking of revoking their citizenship!) and don’t wish to vote for independence?
John Scott furnished up some important background information concerning the failed 2004 referendum, but my question still is: In a true democracy, isn’t it the pan-blues’ right to decide to NOT vote in a referendum if they choose, even if it for tactical reasons? In a mature democratic system that is working well, that’s… well, that’s just life.
If the pro-Independence forces aren’t able to push through a referendum within the framework of a democratic political system (including its “loopholes” and quirks such as the “right” NOT to vote in a referendum etc), where does that leave us — the rest of the world — as we try to form our own personal views on whether there is in fact a clear national aspiration for Taiwanese independence at all costs? If a people yearns for independence but the recognition and confidence of the rest of the world is irrelevant to them, then for goodness’ sake (and the sake of the rest of the world, who don’t need or want WWW3), I don’t know why they even bother to try and join the “community of nations”.
I think the quesiton I raise here and I have also raised somewhere else before will remain as unanswered in the foreseeable future. If I may be allowed to say, many of the pro-independence people in Taiwan (the majority?), especially perhaps the grass root supporters, do not understand the essence of democracy, a tool that they often rely on to refute the argument made by the other side.
IMHO, compromise is the key of democracy. Majority opinion rules, but ONLY after some compromise made that is accepted by minorities. Without that crucial condition, the so-called democracy becomes dictatorship, a “democratic” dictatorship!
According to the above, a democratic Taiwan, if it is ever truely democratic, should prefer and will have to choose the status cuo, becausethere is no compromise solution agreed between different stakeholders at the moment. A push for independence at whatever cost, the only option for die-hard greens, is exactly what I call a democratic dictatorship. Like any dictatorship, a democratic dictatorship is not different, it tends to benefit the minority other than the majority, a situation that the system democracy is designed to avoid.
Somehow, I sense there is some fundamental, systematic problem in the democratic system. “Democracy is bad, but others are worse.”, I know the quote. It really depends I reckon. Will you accept that your leg should be amputated for the benefits of others, the majority. Well, the majority tells you that you also cast your vote in the democartic process. Unfortunately, the outcome of the referendum rules that you will lose your leg.
I personally cannot answer the question I have raised, but at least I know there is such a question, a very very important question/problem, that many people(the majorties?) do not ask, or perhaps they intentionally choose to ignore (for their own benefits?).
Dear c.c., your views are close to my own views, although I think I have more faith in democracy!
I think democracy works very well when the people have had a chance to build up a certain level of economic security (so that they have economic power to resist vote-buying), as well as education (so that they can police their elected officials, and hold them to account). Here I am thinking of the Philippines, which has a very lively American-style democracy that is under-performing in terms of human development because the “market price” of votes, private armies, and politicians is so cheap.
I would say that India, despite the country’s enormous poverty, is a wonder of democracy where the general population has been “enfranchised”, not only by the vote in se, but — equally crucially — also by a relatively high degree of general awareness regarding the power of the press, the judicial system (especially constitutional law!), and politics, even on the part of people who are illiterate. Of course there are religious bigots, tribalism, and the lingering influence of the caste system, but “upward mobility” does appear to have a real meaning in India.
In occupied Iraq, the novelty of “US-style” democracy has resulted in democratic “elections”. But I find it very hard to discern any kind of real democracy, if markers such as the stunning levels of violence, corruption, sectarianism, and human misery, are anything to go by. It’s hard to see how true democracy can flourish in newly-minted states with a bitter history of repression, without some kind of transitional period where the newly “democratized” people are forced to undergo some kind of reconciliation process.
Oh well, that’s only my personal take on “democracy”, which is a notion that I cherish. There is no denying that the need to build a proper “foundation” for democracy first, instead of proceeding directly to full democracy, is a negative thing when governments use that as an excuse to deny democracy to the people. But I quite honestly cannot think of any social experiments where “shake n bake” democracy has worked. In my part of the world — Southeast Asia — there are too many examples of democracies which are dysfunctional because the first people to be benefit from the new system were able to entrench themselves and acquire inordinate power and wealth before the rest of the society caught up. And they are using this power and wealth to skew the democratic process and keep themselves in power in perpetuity.
For me, Taiwan independence is unacceptable. I have, however, a different standpoint from most above commentators.
It is well-known that Southeast Asia has a large Chinese population. In most places, this population existed for more than one hundred years. Because of the entrepreneurial spirit of these Chinese settlers, they rapidly achieved economic dominance over the natives. Because they achieved economic dominance, the natives resent them. Unfortunately, with the exception of Singapore, most Southeast Asian Chinese populations were unable to seize power after the end of World War II. Therefore, they have been subjected to routine humiliation and sometimes massacre by the natives. (e.g. Indonesia’s Anti-Chinese pogrom of 1998; also read Amy Chua’s World on Fire).
In my view, once Taiwan is reincorporated into the mainland, then the natives of Southeast Asia will truly fear China. Even if they do not fear China immediately, the Chinese navy will be able to intervene quickly wherever the political situation does not favour local Chinese populations.
You may say that this view is slightly imperialist. But how would you feel if the sisters and brothers of your country are oppressed in a foreign land? Without a strong Chinese navy, these Chinese populations will always be subject to the whims of the local populations, whose economic resentment is whipped up at any moment by the newest rising demagogue.
Therefore, I advocate that Taiwan be reunified as soon as possible. Only then is it possible for China to expand beyond her traditional role as a land power.
(I realise of course that the central government has not done a lot in the past to respond to unjust treatment of oversea Chinese populations. For instance, after the Indonesian pogrom of 1998, the central government suppressed news coverage thereof. It also prevented the protest of university students and their demand for action. However, because at that time China remained weak and economically dependent, there was really no other realistic option. But I would that government officials put the interests of the Chinese people ahead of the stability and power of this particular regime.)
“…dominance over the natives…”
“… then the natives of Southeast Asia will truly fear China… ”
“…the Chinese navy will be able to intervene quickly whenever wherever the local situation does not favour local Chinese populations…”
“…only then is it possible for China to expand beyond her traditional role as a land power…”
“Natives”? Views like yours make me ashamed to be an ethnic Chinese. Even though you have so carefully taken my little country, Singapore, out of your argument.
I am not your “sister”, and my first loyalty is to my real sisters and brothers in Singapore, including Malays (“natives”!!!), Indians, and Eurasians.
If China is, as you suggest, the self-appointed natural protector of ethnic Chinese all over Southeast Asia, then my question is: Why don’t more “downtrodden” overseas Chinese choose to return to China to live now that China is no longer the “loser country” of Asia? Especially the rich ones? It looks to me like they prefer to remain in Southeast Asia, where they have put down roots, whether their names are Cohuangco or Liem or Soetarto or Ong or Gwee or Shinawatra or Vejjajiva. I hope that China will never take it upon herself to “liberate” people who have no wish to be liberated. When things were bad in Indonesia in 1998, they just moved their families and their money temporarily to havens like Singapore. And then they moved right back as soon as things had settled down.
All the best,
I’ve been following this thread since it started and am generally very happy about the elaborate way different standpoints are presented and discussed here without people starting to just insult each other.
I would like to add a few things that haven’t been talked about yet and which are in general often misregarded even by the Taiwanese themselves.
I’ve got a very close connection to that small island nation, having mostly to do with work (I am a translator), friendship and a general fascination for the culture and lifestyle that has developed there. Because of my profession, I also find myself spending more and more time on the mainland, BTW.
I know that the word ‘nation’ used above might already have offended some people here (and would definitely offend almost anyone you asked on the mainland, having to do with the way people are educated in the current system), but I use it in a completely factual sense: you have a piece of land that has been independently governing itself for the last 50+ years and where everything is managed in the way an independend nation would manage its affairs. Taiwan’s status is only a question of names an titles, not of the actual situation. Of course it is a very important question, but IMHO nevertheless a somewhat theoretical one.
Whether or not the de-facto-independency should be translated into becoming Taiwan’s official status, that’s a question the people concerned here, the people living on the island, should decide, I think. Democracy, you know.
And here now comes my point: right now, people in Taiwan are seemingly devided in their views on this issue, at least that’s the way it is commonly presented. But the dividing lines are not that clearly drawn as it might seem at first. As was correctly stated above, most Taiwanese agree that they want to maintain the “status quo”, meaning: factual independence from the mainland. This means that not all people who vote for the KMT or the other pan-blue parties are automaticaly pro-uninification and anti-independence.
In my experience, there is a lot of fear and fear-mongering involved that prevents many people from even thinking about the actual issues of wheter or not there is a taiwanese national identity and about what becoming a part of the PRC would mean for them and their lives. (Would they just become another big shopping mall, like HK seems to have become?)
People are told by the KMT and their media outlets that voting for “crazy” Chen or the DPP means, simply put, a potential war with the mainland and economic downfall, chaos for short. (Has anyone seen the KMT poster linking A-Bian and Osama Bin-Ladin? I would have loughed about it hadn’t it been such a sad sign of policical fanatism). Add a big bunch of rockets aimed at the Island and you can’t really talk about a black/white decision any longer. Independence or unification? If you are scared to death and there’s virtually a gun pointed to your head while you’re being asked that question, there are more than just ideological issues involved in your decision, that’s for sure.
One more thing I’d like to comment on is the often used argument of historical connections and common cultural origins. Germany has had it’s fill with regard to its territory changing in size and we’ve had our experience with being divided and reunified as well. Austria used to be part of the German Reich and the Austrians definitely share a lot of cultural heritage with us, but does that mean it should be part of modern Germany today? And I am definitely glad that we unified under a democratic system instead of being ‘brought back into the arms of the socialist motherland’ or something along those lines.
A democratic change in China might lead to the whole cross-strait issue taking a whole new turn (I think this is one reason why the KMT suddenly tries to establish good relations with the PRC – possible future expansion). But as this doesn’t seem likely (and feasible, I have to admit,) Taiwan acutally has no other chance than to somehow make the world recognize it is still there. China will only get more powerful in the future and at some point might just overtake Taiwan without further ado. I can understand the push for more national symbols by the taiwanese government. Strategically speaking, time is running out for the independence movement.
Let’s hope that someday the political debate will become more like the theoretical one we have here and things will be settled peacefully.
Happy New Year!
My family has extensive ties throughout Southeast Asia, so I know how things work there. You say that your loyalty belongs to Singaporean Malays. Perhaps you truly feel that way. But Malays would never accept you as their sister. They would not accept you, because they are muslims, whereas you are Chinese (and presumably non-muslim).
You imagine that people’s loyalties can be grouped into separate nation-states. This is no more than a peacetime facade. When push comes to shove, constructed labels like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia mean absolutely nothing.
Before WWII, all German Jews were fiercely nationalist. They loved Germany. They declared that their loyalty belonged to the German nation, that they are Jews only in culture and religion. But Germans never accepted them.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the epithet “Jews of the East.” This is how Southeast Asians will always perceive us, unless we demonstrate our military might. This world is full of ironies. Kind but weak people are never loved. They are despised, used, and then discarded. Let us be righteous, but let us also be strong!
I grew up in Canada. When I was in elementary school, people regarded China as a backwards nation. Several times, illegal Chinese immigrants made it to Canada. Then for weeks people discussed whether Canada should send them back. I felt humiliated. My people were poor and weak.
Then one day, everything changed. I think it was in high-school. China became the new hip. Everyone wanted to learn about China. Even my high-school crush started learning Mandarin. I still remember her cute, slightly-foreign accent. As for illegal immigrants, people still talk about them, but it is the opposite way around. Illegal immigrants from all over Asia are making their way into China.
You know the phrase siyilaichao – Foreigners paying homage from all four directions. I now know how proud my Tang ancestors felt!
You asked, ‘Why don’t more “downtrodden” overseas Chinese choose to return to China to live now that China is no longer the “loser country” of Asia? Especially the rich ones?’
In fact, they will. Even in Vancouver, Canada, many of my close friends, both Chinese and western, are choosing to live in China. But your argument about roots is correct also. I grew up in Vancouver. Vancouver is my home. My roots are here. Nevertheless, I would that my children and their children never forget their ancestral traditions and their ancient ways.
Speaking of Singapore, I actually have many Singaporean friends in Canada. I also have friends from Taiwan. Funny thing is, the more these people stay in Canada, the more Chinese they become. (And when westerners ask, these people inevitably identify themselves as Chinese.) There is a fundamental tie which binds all Chinese people. By Chinese, I don’t refer to passports or citizenship certificates. I refer to ancestral roots.
You recognise these things if you grew up amongst other people.
My earliest childhood was in Hong Kong. Many in my family are also in Hong Kong. I remember once upon a time Hong Kong people looked down on mainlanders. Back then, Hong Kong was a sophisticated British colony, whereas the mainland was a backward communist state newly opened for reform. People called themselves British, not Chinese. Today, Hong Kong is more patriotic than any mainland city I have visited. If it weren’t for Beijing propping Hong Kong’s economy up, then Hong Kong could very easily slip behind Shanghai.
So I know that attitudes will change in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia also. “Fenjiubihe, Hejiubifen” Divided, they unite; united, they divide. Is this not the perenniel pattern? China had since ancient times been divided many times. Division always leads to unity.
Did the Odes not prophesy greatness for our people? Are we not descendants of the Yellow Emperor and the Fire Emperor? Did Heaven not command the nation of Shang to settle the four directions? Why then do you doubt?
While I’m keenly aware of many shortcomings of modern China, I know my people are destined for pre-eminence. Even as trees shed leaves before snow falls, there are signs which indicate the rise and fall of nations.
The Will of Heaven brought my people low;
Heaven’s command will bring them high again.
By autumn’s cold and starry night, I know
My people’s foe will fall like winter snow.
Even though I had already made a reply – after I reread your post, I knew I had to make a separate response to your last statement:
“When things were bad in Indonesia in 1998, they just moved their families and their money temporarily to havens like Singapore. And then they moved right back as soon as things had settled down.”
The Indonesian riots were not motivated, as some allege, by economic disparity. They were motivated by racial and religious differences. Just as Kristallnacht was motivated by racial and religious differences. This should be obvious to any independent observer.
Therefore your post sounds very ironic. “When things were bad in Indonesia” – as though it were a mild weatherstorm. I could easily have added “as though nothing had happened” to the end of your post.
I can understand if Indonesian Chinese suppress their overt displays of their Chinese identity, in order to survive in a hostile land. But how can you, a Singaporean Chinese, so glibly claim that Malays are your brothers? There is surely no better illustration of denial!
I remember when I was learning about the Indonesian race riots through Hong Kong TV news – all my friends and families were outraged. They demanded vengeance. A punitive expedition at least, if not the permanent destruction of Jakarta.
Now that I am a grown man and understand what happened, I can perfectly understand their sentiments. If there is ever a righteous war, this would be it! I can only hope that the central government does not act so cowardly in the next crisis as it did back then.
I actually knew a few kids in high-school who were Indonesian Chinese. I never asked them about the race riots. I remember all Indonesian Chinese kids hung out with other Chinese kids, instead of Malay kids, Filipino kids, Thai kids, or other non-Chinese kids.
I also know a Chinese professor who is developing a new Chinese-teaching method. Amongst his students are Indonesian Chinese and native Indonesians. He observed that Indonesian Chinese kids never hung out with native Indonesians. They have significantly different habits. In fact, Indonesian Chinese kids were basically like all Chinese kids, except they don’t speak Chinese well.
The above examples make perfect sense – since cultural identity usually takes precedence above political identity, whatever ideology is currently fashionable.
Also, I’m pretty sure that a Southeast Asian Chinese is much more likely to marry a mainland Chinese person or a Hong Kong Chinese person than a Southeast Asian native. I could be wrong about this (so correct me if I am). But if I am right, this again proves my point.
In Canada, I know kids who are third generation and who are actually half-European. But they still self-identify as Chinese. One reason, of course, is that everyone regards them as Chinese, so they might as well be Chinese. But I prefer to understand this as the strength of the Chinese tradition.
you call yourself a “grown man”, but quite frankly, you sound more like a little boy in the Hitlerjugend in Nazi Germany, which you like to refer to at times to support your argument of Chinese Supremacy. Really, some of your comments sound very familiar to me as a German. As does the fact that you and, as you say, quite a few ethnic Chinese around you seem to have such strong feelings about their country of origin. Here in Germany, most of the Turkish immigrands tend to be more nationalist and conservative than people in Turkey. A fact that might have to do with emmigrants not really fitting in where they live, be it for reasons of them rather sticking to themselves or be it for the natives of that country not really embracing them.
Anyway, were it not for your posts now being more than three pages long, I’d just had taken them as being sarcastic. I’d be happy to hear that they indeed were ment that way, but for now: ask yourself why so many Chinese fled from China if this country indeed is the great nation you claim.
Growing up in Germany, one of the most important things I’ve learnt from history is never, never too take anyone’s ethnicity too seriously. After all, we’re all just some two-legged mammals, trying to stay alive on this planet. Making up grand ideas of nations and race and god is just us being bored and taking ourselves far too seriously, I think.
Dear jo, thanks for expressing my own thoughts so exactly. Sorry, Abstract, but many of your remarks display a degree of chauvinism that reminded me of the nazi party or Japan’s “cherry blossom party”. I’m straining to be polite in my language because I am quite sure you are not aware that it’s considered extremely delicate to use examples from the Holocaust to win any kind of argument, no matter how noble your intentions may be.
Jo, the kind of sentiments expressed by Abstract are extreme, but I am sure you have heard the same sentiments expressed before by Chinese, albeit in more measured language. At the risk of over-simplying some very complex lessons of history, what little I know of the Weimar Republic suggests to me that the factors behind the rise of the nazi party are not so different (in some broad ways) from the factors that are feeding “Chinese chauvinism” today.
I think that national socialism was able to flourish because Weimar Germany carried a massive national chip on its shoulder from what was perceived as punitive WWI war reparations designed to humiliate the country and bring the German volk low. You don’t have to parse many sentences in Abstract’s postings to know that he feels that Chinese people have been given insufficient “face” by the world, and that he is looking forward to watching the Chinese race exact due respect once the boot is back on the Chinese foot.
Even the case of Japan’s path to the Pacific War may have some relevance here. Japan’s humiliation and indignation at being unable to relieve domestic economic pressures via her China policy, under the embargos imposed by Western nations, was a massive loss of “face” to a country that felt ready to not only be a superpower, but also recognized as such. I’m not in any way suggesting that the political developments in Germany and Japan were excusable or justifiable, merely seeking to understand the reasons behind them.
I should like to correct any impression I might have given of downplaying the ethnic riots in Jakarta in 1998. But factually, that is precisely what many Sino-Indonesians did: Those who could leave, did leave for havens such as Singapore. But once they were able to return to Indonesia, they went back unless of course there was a warrant out for their arrest over “dirty money”. That is a fact.
“Economic disparity” as a factor behind the brutality of the pogroms should not be downplayed. Sadly, many of the Indonesian Chinese who were targetted in the race riots were actually ordinary, hardworking folk who did not have the ill-gotten riches that bumis associated with the Chinese. Having said that, that disparity is something that one must try to get a handle on if one is to understand Indonesian affairs. I have actually met a Chinese Indonesian lady who had never flown on a commercial flight even once in her life (she was 25) because her father’s private plane was a Boeing jet. This is an extreme example, hardly typical, but I think that if I were a poor bumi farmer trying to scrape by on USD$17 a month, one doesn’t need many such examples to have a certain view of “Chinese wealth”.
Cheers to all —
You say you do not take ethnicity seriously. This is perhaps easy for you, because few countries today have quarrels with Germany. Wherever German tourists go, they feel very safe, even in countries which are hostile to the West. Actually, the above applies to most western countries, including the US. Maybe this is why westerners are not sensitive to subtle cultural, ethnic, and religious dynamics.
But if you were a Hindu living in Bangladesh (where Hindus are routinely humiliated and massacred), then you might feel differently. During the Bangladesh Liberation War, the Pakistani army massacred all Hindus they could find. During that time, many Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims fought side by side. After the war, most Hindus assumed that they would be accepted by Bangladeshi society as long as they were loyal Bangladeshi nationalists. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Each year, Bangladeshi Muslims became more conservative. Each year, the Hindu-Muslim divide grew. Each year, Hindu rights receded. Five years after the Bangladesh Liberation War, most Hindus found all their Muslims had turned against them. Pogroms against Hindus would be fabricated at the slightest excuse. Simply, most Bangladesh Muslims wanted nothing to do with Hindus. They wanted to force Hindus out of the country with violence and humiliation. All this, even as Muslim politicians courted the Hindu vote by making promises never delivered. Today, the Bangladeshi Hindu population is less than one-tenth of its 1950 level.
I’ve also read another book about a woman Bangladeshi. She grew up in a Hindu family which moved to India before the Bangladeshi Liberation War. She married a Hindu man and had many children. Her life was perfect. Nevertheless, she could not forget her childhood home. She could not forget the big banyan tree in front of her old house, the chirping brook a few paces away, or the familiar people of her neighbourhood. So she took a trip back to Bangladesh, against her husband’s advice. She went back to her old neighbourhood and to her old house. But she recognised no one there. Everyone she met hated her (because she was Hindu). She wandered around the entire day searching for familiar sights. Finally, she sat down beneath the old banyan tree. A crowd gathered around her. They talked about how to get rid of her. Finally, an old Muslim man, who remembered her, told her (with compassion) that there was nothing left for her in this old neighbourhood. This woman understood and returned to India.
I relate these above two stories, because sometimes understanding comes only when we stand back. Actually, you can easily replace Hindu with Chinese and Muslim with natives in the above two stories. When Indonesia gained independence, many Indonesian Chinese imagined that they would be accepted if they declared loyalty to Indonesia. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I hear that on the walls of some Chinese classrooms, you can see lines of small holes. Do you know what each small hole is?
Even in Thailand, which is amongst Southeast Asian countries the most tolerant of Chinese, the study of Chinese was for a long times taboo, as was the use of Chinese names. Does this sound like a country which accepts its Chinese population?
There are several Vietnamese districts in Vancouver. A few of them are in fact Chinese districts, composed of Vietnamese Chinese immigrants. Do you know why they came to Vancouver? They came to Vancouver because native Vietnamese expelled them. In former days, most major Vietnamese cities had large Chinatowns. These Chinese people had lived in Vietnam for generations. Now, there are very few Chinese people in Vietnam.
At the time, the Vietnamese army routinely raided the Sino-Vietnamese border. They looted, raped, and massacred villages. Do you know what made them stop? They stopped when the Chinese army conquered Hanoi in less than a week. The Chinese army then demolished all industrial infrastructures in North Vietnam.
Today, Indonesia and Malaysia are increasingly Islamified. Malaysia has a large Chinese population. There is safety in numbers. How can you ensure that another anti-Chinese pogrom would not take place in Indonesia? Apart from a strong, expansive China, there is no way.
Good will cannot mend relationships between Chinese people and Southeast Asian natives. “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” Mountains of hatred are hid by a thin layer of polite words. By fine words and empty promises, Southeast Asian politicians have time after time deceived naive Chinese people.
Again, as I have mentioned, I have relatives in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries. I want them protected. The only way is a powerful Chinese navy. And if they are hurt, then I want vengeance. Better feared than loved, I guess.
Things aren’t as simple as not “to take ethnicity seriously.”
Actually, rereading your post, I don’t think you properly read my posts in the first place. Or perhaps you don’t know my references, in which case you should read up on the history of Overseas Chinese. (Do you even know what anti-Chinese pogroms were?)
‘you call yourself a “grown man”, but quite frankly, you sound more like a little boy in the Hitlerjugend in Nazi Germany, which you like to refer to at times to support your argument of Chinese Supremacy.’
When I referred to Germany, I was stating the fact that German Jews imagined that Germans would eventually accept them, which the Germans never did. German Jews always did their best to fit in as Germans. Many even converted to Christianity.
This was why so many Jews stayed in Germany even after the rise of the Nazis – they were in denial. They imagined that the initial persecutions were just temporary, that Hitler was a simple demagogue, and that beneath the appearance of hatred, most Germans were friendly toward them.
Southeast Asians have for a long time called Overseas Chinese the “Jews of the East.” This is because Overseas Chinese tend to be economically successful. Furthermore, Southeast Asians view Chinese people as an alien population. These views are used as excuses to attack Chinese people.
The Jews were an ancient people with a wide diaspora, who unfortunately lacked a homeland. The Chinese were an ancient people with a wide diaspora, whose homeland was weak. Now that Israel is strong, the welfare of Jews has improved around the world (except in Islamic states). Now that China is strong, the welfare of Overseas Chinese has improved. (For instance, when Tonga mobs looted Chinese stores, and when Tonga moved to expel Chinese immigrants, China intervened both times.)
When Jews are murdered in Arab lands, Israeli people clamour for vengeance. A people which plays nice all the time is shafted (such as India in her struggle with Pakistan).
Whenever things are bad in a country for Jew, Israel intervenes. Don’t think that only Islamic countries continue to attack Jews. In a recent poll in Quebec, Canada, one-sixth of all people interviewed had unfavourable views of Jews.
Love and strife are constants in human interactions. Love during seasons of love, but don’t let times of strife catch you unprepared.
actually, all the examples and stories you quoted above prove my point, I think. Thinking in categories of different ethnicities instead of regarding everyone simply as another human being will only produce cruelties like the ones you mentioned. Not to take one’s ethnicity too seriously of course should not only apply to the Chinese but to all other peoples as well.
You seem to have quite some knowledge of history. Do you really think an armed conflict has ever actually had any positive effects? There is always defeat and resentiment left on one side. Apart from the fact that interfering with other countries internal affairs by sending the Chinese navy to settle things is quite contrary to what Chinese politicians have always argued with regard to Tibet and Taiwan, what would happen after the navy had invaded Indonesia or any other country? Would that country then become part of a new Chinese Great Reich or something along those lines?
Of course, wealth, social divide, fear of the unfamiliar and, most importantly, envy are always important factors in ethnically motivated aggressions, see Germany and the Jews. How do you solve that problem? I don’t know, but trying to spread the wealth seems like a better idea than spreading violence…
How did that come about? Definitely not because we’ve always been nice to everybody. We try to learn from history and not repeat any of the mistakes we made in the past, the biggest one being just what I said: taking our nation, its people and their “race” too seriously. Apart from that there was resentiment after the defeat in WWI, of course, also supporting my point that violence seldomly will have any long-term positive effects.
Dear Jo. and Auntie.:
I guess we have to agree to disagree. My basic principle is to love while you’re allowed to love, but be prepared for times of hatred.
For instance, I live in Vancouver, Canada – the most tolerant, diverse, and multicultural city in the most tolerant, diverse, and multicultural country. My friends come from all ethnicities. I have Persian friends, Indian friends, Chinese friends, European friends, Caucasian Canadian friends, etc. And the girl I want to marry is a perfect blonde. So I certainly want to stay in Vancouver forever.
And thanks to the accepting attitude of most Canadians, I have never encountered any overt racism growing up in Vancouver. Certainly, I have Chinese friends who have encountered racism. But even they feel that they are Canadian first and foremost, and that all they want is to live the western lifestyle forever. They feel this way because Canada feels very safe. It seems that this multicultural paradise will last forever.
Sometimes I feel this way also, but I also know that even up to the 1980s, there was a lot of racism. If you went to the beach back then, people would sometimes yell “Go back to China!” And there were places where you can’t buy houses if you were Chinese. (Ironically, these places are now full of Chinese immigrants.)
Things changed because Canada’s educational policies are very strong on instilling tolerance and acceptance. But history is full of surprises. How do I know that twenty years from now, my beloved city will retain its current tolerance? What if there is a big economic downturn, and everyone started blaming immigrants?
In fact, that happens a lot. For instance, many Hispanic Americans have lived in the States for years. They are hardworking. They identify themselves as American. Certainly, for years many were accepted by their communities. But lately, things changed for many of them. Neighbours no longer smile at them when they cross the street. Vigilantes question their every move (such as making sure they speak english). People talk about the immigration issue as though it affected only illegal immigrants, but the division it generates affects the whole Hispanic community.
And what about those Japanese Americans who had lived in the US for generations prior to WWII. Some of them had no substantial ties to Japan other than blood and skin colour. Certainly, many could not speak a word of Japanese. All of a sudden, one day everyone they had ever known turned on them. The women and children were kept in internment camps, even as the government expected the men to fight the Nazis.
Division leads to unity; unity leads to division. This is the perennial pattern. And as long as you have one drop of Chinese blood in you – it doesn’t matter to what political, cultural, or religious ideal you profess loyalty – then your ancestry will catch up with you. In times of peace, this happens in benevolent, spiritual ways. For instance, a westernised Chinese person might all of a sudden discover that he loves Chinese tea, or Chinese chess, or acupuncture. In times of strife, when your community rejects precisely because you are Chinese, then you would be glad you have a strong homeland.
I’ve spent most of my life overseas. I saw with my own eyes how my homeland was formerly despised. I also saw how it rose to be strong once again. I saw how the status of Chinese immigrants improved in their respective communities.
Personally, I knew many Overseas Chinese who once upon a time wanted nothing to do with China, but now they are so proud of who they are.
That is why I want my people to be strong before anything else. Once you are strong, then you can chart your destiny. If you are weak, then you remain the meat and fish on other people’s cutting board.
‘“Economic disparity” as a factor behind the brutality of the pogroms should not be downplayed.’
This is exactly the argument people use to attack minorities everywhere. Either they are too poor (Hispanic, Indigenous people) or they are too rich (Jews, Chinese, East Indians). As for redistribution of wealth, this idea is very ironic, because many Overseas Chinese were communists until China disavowed worldwide revolution. It was Soeharto who massacred many Chinese families, and then imposed many sanctions against Chinese businesses, even as he installed a free-market dictatorship. And then when his power was fading, he nationalised many Chinese businesses, only to return them when native replacements could not operate them.
‘what would happen after the navy had invaded Indonesia or any other country? Would that country then become part of a new Chinese Great Reich or something along those lines?’
Ideally, we could partition the country into a Chinese part and a native part.
“I’m straining to be polite in my language because I am quite sure you are not aware that it’s considered extremely delicate to use examples from the Holocaust to win any kind of argument, no matter how noble your intentions may be.”
I never referenced the Holocaust. Instead I referenced the Kristallnacht. You should understand that Kristallnacht is not a unique event in world history, but a recurring pattern in many parts of the world.
The difference between the Holocaust and the Kristallnacht is that the Holocaust is the systematic destruction of a people (genocide) whereas Kristallnacht is a mob-based event aimed at the humiliation of a people. But even the Holocaust is not a unique event. You only have to look at the recent conflicts in Sudan to understand that. The difference is that the Holocaust was committed by a well-organised state, whereas most other genocides were less systematic and planned.
A mob-based event aimed at the humiliation of a people – what do I mean by that?
Did you know that before the 1998 pogrom, native Indonesians tagged Indonesian Chinese houses with coloured tapes, so that when the pogrom began, the mobs would know which houses had treasures to be robbed, which houses had children to be kidnapped, and which houses had women to be raped?
If this is not humiliation, what is?
My references to Kristallnacht is very apt. It is apt because the perpetrators referenced it (Southeast Asia is a hotbed of anti-Semitism). It is very telling that many Indonesians refer to Chinese communities as “the Chinese problem,” just as many Germans referred to Jewish communities as “the Jewish problem.” It is apt because observers, both western and Chinese, referenced it (see Amy Chua’s World on Fire). And it is apt because Jewish people, who are knowledgeable about the subject, are the first to sympathise with Overseas Chinese.
(I remember when I went to a Jewish friend’s house, the first thing his father mentioned was that Chinese people were the Jews of the East.)
Auntie, unlike you, I have no illusions about Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, all countries hate each other. They also hate Overseas Chinese communities. There is no such thing as Southeast Asian solidarity. And a weak community is always exploited and bullied by strong communities.
(You only have to look at the treatment of indigenous peoples to understand that. In tolerant regimes such as China, the biggest problems indigenous peoples face are local corruption, official insensitivity, and the erosion of traditional culture. In intolerant regimes like Myanmar, indigenous peoples face exploitation, expulsion, and systematic extermination.)
Hu luo Pingyang bei quan qi – The tiger is bullied by dogs when it finds itself in Pingyang. Stateless indigenous people are most oppressed, followed by Indian communities (because India plays too nice). At least Chinese communities can look to a homeland.
I want my people to be united and strong. I therefore believe in Pan-Chinese solidarity. You keep referencing the fact that Indonesian Chinese stayed in Singapore, a Chinese-majority city, during the anti-Chinese pogroms. Doesn’t that prove my point exactly? And when they moved back to Indonesia, what does that prove except they are foolish enough to trust the “good-will” of the natives?
Auntie, I know where you are coming from, because I have many friends and relatives from Southeast Asia. There is tremendous pressure on Overseas Chinese to deny their Chinese heritage. Furthermore, there is a sense of abandonment (e.g. after the Bandung conference), because communist China renounced its ties to Overseas Chinese communities.
But as I’ve said, a person’s Chinese ancestry always catches up to them. In a positive way, you see many Overseas Chinese returning to China to do business. Many of their children will probably live in China, as China’s economy continues to grow. In Indonesia and other places where Chinese learning was formerly banned, Chinese learning is now in huge demand. Sometimes people go back to China and have a spiritual awakening.
In a more neutral way, many Overseas Chinese rediscover their Chinese heritage, when they realise that other people will always regard them as Chinese, whatever their political and religious afiliations. In a negative way, Overseas Chinese are oppressed and humiliated. Thus they are forced by adverse circumstances to reexamine their Chinese heritage.
All I have mentioned above is but the specific instance of a perennial historical pattern.
Joseph was sold into Egypt as a slave. Many Overseas Chinese were brought into Southeast Asia by Britain as debt-workers. Joseph rose to prominence because he had talent. He became the king’s most trusted advisor. Similarly, many Overseas Chinese were in former days trusted advisors of native chiefs and kings.
Because the Hebrews were hardworking, they prospered and became numerous. Therefore, the Egyptians feared them. Because Overseas Chinese were hardworking, they prospered and became numerous. Therefore, native Southeast Asians feared them. There came a king who “knew Joseph not,” who imposed many sanctions on the Hebrews. Similarly, the lives of many Overseas Chinese changed in a single day, when unfavourable regimes replaced favourable ones (e.g. Soeharto for Sukarno).
Like the Hebrews, Chinese people saw themselves as a chosen people. Jewish people don’t intermarry with other people. Most Chinese people don’t marry outside their communities (except in the early days when there were no women). They also had a mythical homeland and strong, independent culture.
A person can’t stop being Jewish. Neither can a person stop being Chinese. Whether you are a Jew living in Kazakhstan or a Jew living in New York, you can’t escape your Jewish ancestry. The same goes for Chinese.
Even today, Egypt is very anti-Jewish. Some things never change. This is just the way of the world.
Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t see why I should have to defend my views.
Why shouldn’t I want my country to be strong?
Why shouldn’t I want my people to be united?
Why shouldn’t I want my people to be protected?
Why shouldn’t I want those who hurt my people to be punished?
How exactly is this extreme?
When Al-Qaeda attacked the US, the US retaliated almost immediately. Even now, they are still occupying Afghanistan. If my people are hurt, why shouldn’t I want a strong Chinese navy to protect them?
Furthermore, the US has military bases all over the world. Whenever US citizens are oppressed in other countries, the US intervenes. Certainly, no country can attack, humiliate, loot, rape, and massacre US citizens and get away with it.
Why shouldn’t I want the same for my people?
But certainly, dear Jo., I can respect your ideas.
It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. My best friend in high-school was German (even though he grew up in Pennsylvania and then in Vancouver). His whole family were Quakers. Quakers are a pacifist church. Most Quakers rejected service during WWII and other wars because of objections of conscience.
So we had the exact same arguments about nationalism and identity as in the above discussion. He said he could never understand why people were so attached to their nations. How can a person prefer to be Bulgarian rather than Romanian, or vice versa? What difference does it make whether China included Tibet? He also said he would rather be killed than to kill someone.
Different people, different lives, I guess. Identity is not something you can choose. It is something which catches up to you.
It’s like family. You can’t choose your parents, your siblings, or your relatives. You can choose your friends, but no matter how many friends you have, friends cannot replace your family.
I am not sure whether I want to take this argument any further. Sentences like
just show that we have a very, very different view of the world, including the meaning of the word “tolerance”.
I have some jewish ancestors in my family, BTW. Yet this heritage was simply abandoned at some point and has no relevance for us today, so it’s not a simple as
I think it’s all about one’s mindset, whether or not one attatches oneself too much to things like race and religion, maybe for reasons of filling some kind of void inside oneself, or whishing to belong to a greater cause…
There was a great debate in Germany a few years ago, because some politician deliberately used the phrase “I am proud to be German.” I could never understand how you could be proud of something so random as being born in this or that country…
This thread used to be about Taiwan. Although I have learnt something, for example that even in Canada one can manage to maintain a very race-centered view of things and that the dreams of Chinese Supremacy are not confined to the PRC itself, this was not what I wanted to discuss here, I am sorry.
You put a lot of effort in your posts and I don’t want to be impolite, but I’m just not sure this is taking us anywhere, at least not anywhere I want to follow…
Oops. With all these quotes part of my first sentece got lost:
I am not sure whether I want to take this argument any further. Sentences like “In tolerant regimes such as China…” just show that we have a very, very different view of the world, including things like the meaning of the word ‘tolerance’.
thanks for your posts and for taking part in this discussion. I simply agree with what you said, so I didn’t comment on it. Hople you don’t feel left out 😉
Dear jo., for what it’s worth, I’m with you. I am the loving godmother of a little boy who is Jewish, an Israeli. His parents have been my close friends for nearly 20 years. I am afraid I am more prickly than you are in my response to Abstract’s points of view, because my godson’s grandmother was the only member of her entire extended family — besides her sister — to survive the camps. She was sent to a camp at the age of six. To me it is imaginable for anybody like Abstract to use any examples from the Shoah as gratuitious fodder for dubious “arguments”. There is simply no decent way to compare, it sickens me. It disrespects every one who died in the Holocaust, whether they were Jewish, gypsy, homosexual, Catholic or communist. My Jewish friends (and family, yes, I have a connection too) deal with this awful sin against them without resorting to jingoist, expansionist rhetoric, they know the value of life. I wish Abstract would spend even ten days in Israel and make friends with real Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, before making such scary statements.
P/s: No matter how strong my feelings may be against somebody’s views or conduct, I have never in my life dared to call anybody a “nazi”. And I hesitate to use the word “pogrom” lightly. Because to me, these words represent a degree of wrong which I — “aus anstand” — am deeply convinced, simply cannot be turned to a facile personal use. To do so would be to reduce the horror of what Man did to other men in the name of the 3rd Reich; I rank it with Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the horrible events in Nanking under the Japanese Occupation, but none of those extreme horrors even come close, in my (foolish) opinion. I see that you seem to be on the same page, and I wish you well. Thanks for being jo!
‘There was a great debate in Germany a few years ago, because some politician deliberately used the phrase “I am proud to be German.” I could never understand how you could be proud of something so random as being born in this or that country…’
You see, you just don’t understand. It’s not about being proud, at least not in the sense of accomplishments.
For instance, let’s say you were adopted. Your foster parents never told you about your adoption. You lived the perfect life for the twenty-something years. Your foster parents could have been the most perfect parents in the world.
One day, your foster parents pass away. You discover that your were adopted. Now from your perspective, you might say that it really doesn’t matter. After all, your foster parents brought you up. They were there while your birth mother wasn’t.
But blood does matter. There is something about familial ties that just feels right. Usually, adopted children feel compelled to seek out their birth mothers as soon as they find out they were adopted.
It’s not about discriminating people into different categories. It’s about an instinctual empathy for people with whom you have ties. These ties can be anything. They can be religion, friendship, occupation, nationality, ancestry, etc.
It’s not something specific to Chinese people. Let’s say during WWI, you were French. But your grandfather was German. How would you feel if you were compelled to join to the French army? How would you feel when you hear everyone around you mocking and humiliating Germans? (Even if you didn’t speak German and didn’t consider yourself German.)
In tolerant regimes such as China…
just show that we have a very, very different view of the world, including the meaning of the word “tolerance”’
Compared to most of the world, Chinese policies toward minority nationalities are very tolerant. Even to recognise minorities as minority nationalities should be considered tolerance.
You would know what I mean if you read up on the treatment of minorities in Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, etc. You can also read up on the treatment of indigenous people in South America.
For a more equal comparison to the Chinese case, you can read up on the statistics of the Lakota people in the US.
‘Lakota has the highest death rate in the United States and Lakota men have the lowest life expectancy of any nation on earth, excluding AIDS, at approximately 44 years. Lakota infant mortality rate is five times the United States average and teen suicide rates 150% more than national average. 97% of Lakota people live below the poverty line and unemployment hovers near 85%.’
In general, the treatment of minorities in China is better than many parts of the world. For instance, minorities are encouraged to learn their own language. Chinese linguists help minorities create their own scripts. Minorities are allowed to have more kids. Universities have quotas set aside for minorities (even though the drop-out rate is very high). The main complaint is that overwhelming Chinese immigration and dominant Chinese culture are destroying traditional cultures of minority nationalities regardless.
The discussion of minority nationalities illustrates my point, because I am half-She on my mother’s side. I can’t speak a word of She. (Actually, most She descendants cannot. Only maybe three hundred in one small village in Zhejiang can.) But my ancestry compels me to study the ancient history, mythology, and religion of the She people. I’m currently writing a book on the practice of Traditional Chinese Religion. In it, I plan to include a large section of She customs. (She people are Daoists. Their customs, mythology, and religion are very close to Han Chinese.)
‘You put a lot of effort in your posts’
I just write very quickly. I’m a writer afterall.
Actually, I would go so far as to say even childhood religions and local loyalties will eventually catch up to you.
For instance, even though my ancestral locality is Chaozhou, my earliest childhood was in Hong Kong. Therefore, I always have a sentimental attachment to Hong Kong. And I’m always the first to stand up for Hong Kong when mainland Chinese make fun of it. Or when mainland Chinese make fun of Vancouver, then I am also the first to defend it. (And sometimes I defend the US also. It’s not because I have a better command of statistics about the US, but because having known many people from the US throughout my life, I understand their perspective and can empathise with them.)
As for childhood religion, it’s fairly apparent that you can’t easily switch religions in adulthood. People usually retain a sentimental attachment to childhood religious upbringings. Sometimes, they react against their childhood religion.
You can change your beliefs as you grow up, but not as a wholesale rejection of your past. You can’t move on unless you’ve made peace with your ancestors, your childhood religion, your culture, your people, your family, etc. I’m not advocating an exclusive acceptance of one identity. Instead, a person should give all his ties their proper dues.
For instance, what I’ve said does not apply solely to ancestral communities. If someone is accepted into a new community, then he should also honour that new community, by volunteer work, contributions, etc.
Now that I think of it, I have a very good example.
My grandfather was formerly a high-level PRC official. He had five cousins, who were brothers. These five cousins were during the Anti-Japanese War known as the Five Tigers of Chaozhou. In any case, they were heroes.
During the fifties, one day, someone gave them a feast. They were heralded as heroes. The very same afternoon, a local court (untraceable) sentenced them as traitors and Japanese spies. They were taken from the feast (which was a set-up) and shot summarily.
At the time, there was very little my grandfather could do. Later on, when he was in a much better position, he wanted to pursue his cousins’ killers. But all his friends dissuaded him. (Because it involved too many people.)
When my father related the story to me a few years ago, my first reaction was why hadn’t someone taken vengeance? And why aren’t we pursuing the subject now? Obviously, I don’t know those five victims personally.
If those were someone else’s relatives, then my reaction would be very different. I would be intrigued. I might empathise with the victims, but I wouldn’t go seek vengeance.
There is something about familial ties which make everything different. In the end, I did not pursue the subject (because most people involved were now dead or were very old). But if it had been twenty or thirty years earlier, then I might have gone seek vengeance.
I can try to explain familial ties and other such ties to people who don’t recognise them. But all explanations are just words. Empathy is something you feel. Either you empathise or you don’t.
By the way, you wrote:
“that the dreams of Chinese Supremacy are not confined to the PRC itself,”
I have never advocated Chinese supremacy. What I want is for my people to be safe and protected. Clearly, they are neither safe nor protected in many Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia.
Who can look after Overseas Chinese communities if not Chinese people? I bet fewer than one in one hundred people in any western country has not heard of the anti-Chinese pogroms in Indonesia, even though over 2000 women were raped according to one report. (The statistics are not clear. The Indonesian government denies the pogroms happened. But I read that statistics from a respectable human rights organisation.)
That there is even the facade of tolerance today in Indonesia is because of China’s rising power. If it weren’t for China’s rising power, then Chinese New Year and Chinese writing would still be banned in most Southeast Asian countries.
Fine words and empty promises lead to shattered hopes and dreams. Western media only report on things relevant to western publics. But you never hear about atrocities committed all over the world, many under governments supported by the West. Each mother must protect her own children, I guess.
for what it is worht
I lived in Taiwan for 2 years, at a time when China was trying to encourage Taiwanese people to visit China, either to visit relatives or to try and proof that it was not the big bad brother across the straits.
China has always regarded Taiwan as a ‘wayward’ loose province/county/state and threaten to ‘reunite’ it should it ever delcare to the worlds it’s independence. It is only America that keeps the peace.
I suggest you read up on the history of Overseas Chinese. Obviously, having grown up in sheltered Singapore, you don’t know nothing about the historic and current oppression of your people.
What if it was your sister who was raped and killed in the 1998 pogrom?
“Don’t take ethnicity so seriously,” “Maybe consider economic redistribution” – Why don’t you tell that to the man whose house was burnt down with his wife and two children in it?
These things are hard to read about. Sometimes I don’t even what to think about it. Most countries in the world have had anti-Chinese riots. For certain, all countries in Southeast Asia (except maybe Cambodia). But in Indonesia, these riots, pogroms, and massacres are constant. (It’s not even just one pogrom in 1998, but it happens all the time.)
All the information you can find in libraries. It is emotionally traumatic to read about your people being continually oppressed, exploited, and humiliated. (Read the eyewitness accounts as well as the statistics.)
My family had Southeast Asian ties from very early on. The stories my relatives tell are heartbreaking.
Many women who were raped committed suicide afterwards.
All I can say to you is you don’t know nothing.
And for what it is worth, I do wish for armed conflicts. I pray that relentless vengeance pursues the oppressors of my people, even to the end of earth and heaven. I pray that one day public pressure will compel the PLA to dispossess the enemies of my people.
I used to have a thick portfolio of information on Anti-Chinese pogroms in Southeast Asia. But I can’t find it. There are some information on the internet, but to get a real grasp of the subject, you must go to a university library. Usually, the relevant information will be found in a thesis or a research paper hidden in an obscure corner.
It will be emotionally traumatic, but you have to plow through the data. You have to sort the conflicting statistics and then slowly determine their reliability by their respective narrators.
Who wants to hear about human cruelty when he can imagine that the world is good and pure? “Don’t take ethnicity so seriously.” What does that even mean? We are talking about the lives of actual people here. You could be one of them if you lived in rural Java instead of Singapore.
Western nations do what is convenient and then call it justice. Most people do not live in western nations which at least pay lip-service to human rights. Western nations often mess up other nations and then preach about tolerance and equality. It’s so out of touch. It’s like telling starving people to eat cake. Each nation must fend for itself.
I believe in pan-Chinese solidarity because I have seen for myself how the rise of China has concretely changed the lives of Overseas Chinese (however they feel about the PRC).
(By the way, it seems that posts written earlier sometimes appear after posts written later. I’m replying to a post from a bit up.)
I am sorry to see that whenever there is a debate over the TW issue, irrelevant arguments like the holy “democracy” banner etc. jump out.
Dave, you take something from sb. and refuse to return it. The owner asks for that and is unable to take it back by whatever means because your Holy US is “keeping the peace”. I can’t help but think of the jungle law.
Are you practicing for a creative writing course or what? Very interesting prosa. I won’t commen on the content, though.
Well, the problem is, that Taiwan has never been taken form the PRC. It has never been under control of the PRC, so you can’t really talk about something being stolen here. I’ve heard this argument before and it is one of the most superficial ones there are.
Or, if you put it that way, wouldn’t that mean on the other hand that the mainland had been stolen from the KMT? The PRC being a runaway province of Taiwan?
‘And I hesitate to use the word “pogrom” lightly.’
Uh…so what exactly would you call the 1998 event? A minor incident?
“5,000 shops and homes of ethnic Chinese burned and looted on the eve of democratization; 2,000 people died and 150 Chinese women were gang-raped.”
This is from http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people4/Chua/chua-con3.html. The speaker is a professor who studies market-dominant minorities. I actually the above is a very conservative estimate, because most women who were raped do not report it. As I’ve previously mentioned, many commit suicide. And oftentimes, the violence takes place in rural areas where data collection is difficult. (Even without mobs sending death threats to investigators.)
And again, as I have made great lengths to explain above, I never referenced the Holocaust. I referenced the Kristallnacht. One is the systematic destruction of a people. The other is a mob-based event aimed at the humiliation of a people. (Actually partly government-orchestrated, but so was the 1998 pogrom.) These are two different events. I have further justified my references aplenty above, but I don’t think you understand or care about my arguments, but whatever.
In any case, this discussion has gone on long enough. Let’s summarise:
This post was about Taiwan. I believe in reunification because I believe in pan-Chinese solidarity. I believe in pan-Chinese solidarity because there is no one to defend Chinese communities except Chinese communities themselves.
You say that China is not the natural protector of Chinese communities. Instead, you believe that Southeast Asian natives are your close kins.
So I demonstrate that Southeast Asia is not friendly toward Chinese communities. Most Southeast Asian countries hate their Chinese population. Perhaps you don’t realise this because you spent your life in sheltered Singapore. Or perhaps you don’t identify with Chinese people in the first place, which is just as well. Throughout the entire discussion, you showed no empathy with Indonesian Chinese victims of the pogroms. Instead, you defended the oppressors of your people. Perhaps these oppressors are your true kins?
When I grew up in Hong Kong, I knew too many people who claimed to be “British” rather than Chinese. They all changed their minds. Some people are just shallow. Maybe it’s a form of teenage rebellion? I think these people mistake the uncritical acceptance of western ideals for sophistication.
Let’s love passionately, and hate passionately, and all of this freely. I love my people and hate their oppressors. What can be more natural? What can be more righteous?
“Are you practicing for a creative writing course or what? Very interesting prosa.”
As I’ve mentioned, I am a writer. I comment here sometimes when I take coffee breaks.
Anyway, let’s all drop the subject of identity, Overseas Chinese communities, Southeast Asia and so forth. The subject has been exhausted. Southeast Asia involves too many memories I don’t want to remember.
You have to understand that nation-states is a western concept. It is very alien to most of the world. Most Chinese people think of legitimacy in terms of the Mandate of Heaven.
When the Qing dynasty fell, the Mandate passed onto the Republic of China. After the Liberation, the Mandate passed onto the People’s Republic of China. This is why in Chinese history textbooks, you see one dynasty following another in a neat stack beginning at the Three Sovereigns and ending with the PRC.
The government which holds the Mandate is responsible for reunifying China, defending China and Chinese people against other foreigners, preserving ancient rituals, and so forth. When one dynasty follows another, it also inherits all of its territories.
In former times, it would be unimaginable for Chinese people that some Chinese people can be legitimately ruled by a foreign government. All people within the bounds of civilisation must acknowledge the Mandate holder.
This is why modern western political theories are rarely relevant to Chinese politics. People just don’t think in those terms. As far as most Chinese people are concerned, the PRC is, after fifty years, the legitimate Chinese government. Therefore, it doesn’t matter that the ROC was there first.
Speaking of Overseas Chinese communities (but in this new context), you see that virtually all Overseas Chinese communities staunchly defend reunification. The elders of the communities often join hands to condemn separatists. This is because they view the PRC now as the legitimate ruler of China. In former times, some of them viewed the ROC as the legitimate ruler of China. Even then, they wanted reunification, but just with the ROC doing the reunification.
Speaking of creative writing, many poems throughout Chinese history deal with the theme of reunification:
Instructions to my son, by Luyou:
Although I know that nothing matters after death/
I grieve that the nine provinces are not united/
The day that the King’s army pacifies the North/
Don’t forget to inform me during the familial rites/
*This is perhaps the most often quoted poem in reference to reunification. Luyou wrote that on his death bed.
Reunification? or Annexation?
In discussions regarding the policy of the CCP/PRC and the KMT (their allies in Taiwan) to unite China and Taiwan, the word they prefer to use –reunification– is actaully misnomer, and not the most correct or appropriate term to use.
They prefer “reunification” because it implies that the PRC once controlled Taiwan, and has a divine, God-given right to eventually control Taiwan again (regardless of what people in Taiwan want) or that Taiwan was somehow taken away from China. These people also typically use arguments centered on issues related to ancient history, “blood” or ethnicity to justify using military force to achieve their territorial aims.
Annexation (which in this case will also require invasion and involve large-scale death and destruction) would of course be the more correct term to use for this policy. That is the term commonly used when one nation seeks to take control of another state by force. Or is there a better word?
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he used term “reunification”, in order to justify his invasion on grounds of ancient history. The CCP/PRC uses the term “reunification” for the same reason. But of course, few will deny that Saddam Hussein’s was actually an attempt to annex another state. Annexation was the term used by international media to describe the attempt, not reunification.
So, in the case of China’s policy to take over Taiwan by force, why do many of the international media still use the term “reunification”???
Again, as I’ve mentioned, the idea of nation-states is alien to China. In Chinese political theory, a government is legitimate which possesses the Mandate of Heaven.
What does the Mandate of Heaven concretely mean?
The Mandate of Heaven refers to the continuity of the Chinese civilisation. It recognises the superiority of civilisation (which is eternal) over specific governments (which are temporary).
For instance, the Qing government is considered legitimate, even though the Emperor was Manchurian. This was because the Qing government supported the Chinese civilisational ideals.
When the Ming remnant forces first retreated to Taiwan, they regarded the Qing government as illegitimate. Later on, as the Qing government entrenched itself, the Ming remnant forces eventually realised the hopelessness of the restoration cause. Therefore, they then recognised the Qing as the defenders of the Chinese civilisation and were quite happy to integrate back into the empire.
The PRC today leaves many things to be desired. Nevertheless, it has made a strong effort in recent years to restore, support, and enlarge Chinese civilisational ideals. Therefore, it is legitimate.
Perhaps it’s my machine, but I find that sometimes my posts require moderation, whereas at other times the posts appear immediately without moderation.
Sometimes, posts posted earlier appear after posts posted later.
Sometimes, when I make two or three posts in quick succession, one or two will require moderation, whereas others will not.
What does this all mean?
Re-unification or annexation are just two different norns describing the same event that is mainland China/China and Tainwan becoming the same entity. Your argument does not say anything but demonstrating that your predefined position which is pro Taiwain independence. However, your predetermined position does not change the fact that the current situation is a direct result of the Chinese civil war, just like the civil war of the US. The only difference is that the Chinese one did not result in a total defeat of the losing party.
You can say PRC tries to annex ROC as PRC regards itself the central government of China (so did ROC in the past few decades not long ago). However, if you say reunification of CHINA is the wrong term(in other words, annexation of Taiwan by China is the correct one), I don’t think there is any way to conduct a meaningful discussion with you on this issue anymore.
Dear c.c., isn’t it ironic how close the chauvinistic “Mandate of Heaven” (pro-unification) and the “jungle democracy” (pro-independence) arguments actually are to each other, in the way that these positions are both so predefined, and it is so difficult to find something even vaguely tenable (logically speaking) in them?
I stopped paying any attention to Abstract’s posts at the point where he tries to separate Kristallnacht from the Holocaust in order to hammer some square “logical” peg into a round hole. Wot?
John Pasden will be relieved to know that I’m subtracting myself from this “debate” because there simply is no way to have a meaningful discussion any more. Abstract, I’m sincerely relieved and glad to leave you the last word. Base your life on puffed-up chauvinism and semi-divine rights, but do not come to the rest of the world (which is made up of “nation states”, which you don’t recognise) for recognition or help if one day your glorious China tries to throw her weight around militarily and is given another bloody nose by Japan and the United States. Because this time, you actually ask for it.
jo, the words, “…so denn wie mann sich bettet, so liegt mann..” (sorry for my awful spelling!) have been in my head a lot during this sad “discussion”. I may choose not to live by the sword, certainly not if it’s merely to feed some massive national inferiority complex, but that does not mean that I am denying my “Chineseness”. I have old family friends in Germany, gentiles, who risked a lot in order to stand up against chauvinism and words like “lebensraum” and attempts to divide the world into the “master race” and “subhumans”… and their way just feels right to me.
views like yours give me hope in a sense that there are at least some people out there that don’t succomb to the twisted logic of Chinese nationalism and its emphasis on race. It’s not what you are, it’s what you chose to be, that’s what I’d add as hopefully one of my final statements in this discussion Abstract started. Sad to hear that you won’t take part in it any longer, may the force of reason continue to be with you 😉
You did now use the word ‘supremacy’ yourself in one of your last posts, when you were trying to tell us why international laws and customs don’t apply to China. Just to mention it. I am basically trying to ignore the contents of your statements, although your vigour and “quickly writtenness” of your posts (you must have a great memory, given all the statistics and quotes you use there) still make me at least read them, and be it just for the sake of politeness. Don’t know how long I can force myself to do this, though.
Anyway, much more troubeling to me are the views expressed here by CC, because they seem to represent the kind of simple but dangerous nationalism I see evolving in China, whereas Abstract has created his own much more sophisticated version.
“It’s payback time” – this might become the Chinese mindset for this century, given all the humilations and defeats it has suffered in the last 200 years. Taiwan is just one of those thorns in the flesh of the Chinese psyche, I think. Still, not even China would consider sending troops to protect citizens of another nation just because they have Chinese origins. So I suggest you stop emphasizing the horrible events that have happened in Indonesia, which, BTW, no one here has ever denied.
Reunification or anexation are the same thing to CC.
Well, they might (or might not) lead to the same result, Taiwan becoming part of the PRC’s territory, but they would definitely involve two completely different processes. Reunification could theoretically happen in a peaceful way, wheres there is probably no way of peacefully annexing a sovereign state (let’s not start the discussion on this again, please). So “empathy with your people” does not apply to your brothers and sisters in Taiwan, does it?
And given that China has changed in size quite often in its long history, why stop there? Doesn’t the obvious supremacy of the Chinese civilisation give it the right to enlarge its territory even further and let other civilisations enjoy the benefits of being ruled by the Mandate Of Heaven?
I don’t really wanna hear your answer, but I am sure there will be one.
When Al-Qaeda killed 3000 US citizens, the US retaliated by occupying two countries. This occupation continues today with untold casualties.
When people mention US imperialism, usually they think of the Iraq War. But of course there are untold numbers of secret wars conducted by the US all the time, all for some vague, undefined “US interest.” These secret wars are not conducted for self-defense. Instead, they are conducted because ideologues in the US government find them necessary.
But of course, this is the way the world works.
Compare the above to what I have said. All I said above is that a stronger Chinese navy would help protect Overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. With exception of one verse of poetry, where I prophesied the fall of the oppressors of my people, and one paragraph, where I prayed for the destruction of the oppressors of my people – that is all I have said. Anyone can check.
Moreover, by “oppressors of my people,” I never referred to a specific people or nation. Instead, if you read my words in context, you would know that I meant those who incited and committed pogroms against my people. I don’t see why vengeance should not pursue them. Why should my people not receive justice? At least it is justice. Special agents from Western countries are often trained to assassinate those who somehow offend Western “interests.”* That is hardly a just cause, but TV shows and movies glorify them all the time.
(Conversely, in American forums, you regularly read calls to attack this or that country, this or that people, this or that religion. I’m mincing words here. It’s funny how the same phenomena is called patriotism when it is American but nationalism when it is other countries.)
But somehow, I’m the expansionist, jingoist, extremist, etc.
But look at who I am talking to. One person, Jo., does not believe ethnicity matters at all. Sure, I can respect his cosmopolitan views. Indeed, maybe the world would be better if people did not care about ethnicity. But we’re talking about reality here.
And the reality is that ethnicity matters tremendously in any country. And Jo, having grown up in homogenous Germany, has never lived the life. He does not know what it feels like being a despised people. When you see your friends and relatives exploited and humiliated and you can’t do anything about it. When everyone around you is ashamed of who he is. When everyone tries to hide his traditions, and the only people with integrity are jeered at and mocked.
So for all purposes, he has no right to talk about ethnicity. He talks about the German experience. Well, let’s talk about the Chinese experience. The Chinese experience tells us that when your people are weak, then other people take advantage of you. When you are weak, you have no friends.
When other people attack you, you don’t stand up for yourself. You don’t stand up for yourself, because somehow being bullied seems right. It seems right because you have no self-esteem at all.
Only you can stand up for yourself. Otherwise, you remain the meat and fish on other peoples’ tables.
Fortunately, China is not a banana republic. It’s run people who know what they are doing. If it weren’t for the reputation of the PLA in the last fifty years, then the US and its Western friends could have and would have intervened in China’s internal affairs. Maybe they would have sent in armies to “reconstruct” China, just as they do with Iraq and Afghanistan now.
Look at how they screwed that up. Not to mention the countless South American countries totally screwed over by the US corporatocracy. If only they had competent armed forces!
Let’s not even start comparing military budgets or discuss the fact that the US has military bases all over the world. All I have said in my posts is that China should have a stronger navy.
Clearly, for some people, what’s good for the West is not good for the East.
Auntie, Jo, I too have spent time in Germany. In fact, I lived in Germany for three months. My best friend is German. I speak and read German with some fluency. In former times, I was very impressed with German broad-mindedness. I saw that Germans were broad-minded, tolerant, and accepting. I was very impressed by their idealism and integrity.
But when ideals do not connect with reality, they become injustice. I say that China should get a stronger navy in order to intervene if the situation gets worse again in Indonesia. Jo says that I shouldn’t be so focused on ethnicity. I guess Jo’s suggestion is that when Indonesia starts persecuting Chinese people again, we should just ask it nicely to desist?
And as I’ve mentioned above, the US and other Western countries routinely interfere in other countries using military pressure. Yet somehow when I want a fraction of that for China, it’s not cool?
Even eighty years ago, Sun Yatsen remarked that cosmopolitanism was often used as a rhetorical device to prevent oppressed people from standing up for themselves. I think the above discussion with Jo and Auntie proves my point.
By the way, just to clear things up, most anti-Chinese laws in Indonesia have not been revoked. You look it up even in Wikipedia. It’s not a historical persecution. It’s a current persecution.
And do you know why people don’t abandon their heritage? It’s because they have integrity. Just like those Indonesian Chinese who throughout this time called themselves Confucians, despite all the persecutions, despite Confucianism being outlawed in Indonesia until recently, despite all the financial and political opportunities which come with conversion to Islam.
Let’s clear a few things up:
You hear the same thing in the West all the time, when people talk about Judeo-Christian values, when people talk about Western civilisation, etc. And you hear in it in India in reference to the Vedic civilisation, in the Middle East in reference to Islamic civilisation, etc.
And I admit it, I have no love for international laws and customs. The same international laws and customs used by imperialists to force open my country, the same laws and customs used to give Shandong to Japan, etc.
Let us be righteous. Let us lay down our swords. Let us befriend good people, that we may be nourished together, grow together, and be free together. But on our terms. Not on terms imposed by arbitrary laws and deceitful rhetoric.
I can easily reference other market-dominant minorities (if that makes you happier), such as South Asians in East Africa, but most people will not have heard of these references.
By the way, even the Jewish experience is not over. Anti-Semitism is widespread around the world. In former times, there were large Jewish settlements in most Islamic countries. Today, these settlements are all gone. There are reasons for this. If you look at Russia, Russia has a strong anti-Semitic undercurrent also. (I think anti-Semitism can only get stronger in this century. History only moves in cycles.)
Even if the Chinese navy were ten times stronger than it is, the world would hardly be a fraction more just. Why should China not be able to protect her people abroad?
Clearly, some people just don’t want China to rise. They want to keep China down. They like China as an object of pity, but they are shocked when Chinese people actually want to defend themselves.
Auntie, this is you in a nutshell. There are always some Chinese people or another who, after they get an education in the West, imagine themselves Westerners. They may still represent themselves as Chinese, but they sure don’t see eye to eye with their brothers and sisters back home. Having bought into the Western ideology, these people talk “dispassionately” and “objectively” about China. They play “being Chinese” in Western societies. So long as they fit into the Western ideology. But when average Chinaman stands up and fights for his integrity, these pseudo-Westerners push him down. They call him atavistic. They call him regressive. They call him nationalist.
Fortunately, I have many friends from Singapore, and they aren’t like you at all.
I love my people. If I be damned for that, then so be it! If that is nationalism, then call me nationalist. If that is extremism, then call me extremist. Because I don’t believe in discussing politics “objectively” or “dispassionately.” No! Every word I write is dead serious. It is dead sincere. I love my people, and every word reflects that. And if some people can’t deal with the fact that I love my people, well then screw them.
When I discussed the Mandate of Heaven, I was bringing up classical Chinese political theory. Maybe some people can’t deal with it. For these people, only modern Western political theories are legitimate.
Actually, this is funny because Western political theories are routinely used in support of war. People tell me all the time that only democracies are legitimate. They say that democracies should overthrow authoritarian regimes, because democracies don’t attack one another, and when the whole world is democratic, there won’t be wars anymore (a very ironic, not to mention empirically-wrong, argument.)
Actually, in this very discussion, someone from above said that we should support Taiwan independence because Taiwan is a democracy, whereas China is an authoritarian regime.
So you see once again how Western ideals are often rhetorical devices for disempowering other nations. This is also nothing new, because throughout the last few centuries, Western nations have routinely used Enlightenment ideals to legitimise their assaults of other nations. For instance, one British official recommended that Britain should disregard her treaty with China, because China was a savage nation and did not deserve treaties. Back then, a nation was savage if it did not adhere to Enlightenment ideals. And only Western nations adhered to Enlightenment ideals. Therefore only Western nations were legitimate.
This is of course very familiar today, except democratic ideals have replaced Enlightenment ideals. Since most democratic countries are Western countries, it seems that non-Western countries are open to attack 24/ 7. (By the way, note that Singapore is not a democratic country.)
It’s time for us to stand up for our integrity and recognise that the West will never play fair with us. Let us be good and kind, but on our terms, not on the terms of those who wish to exploit and destroy us.
If the West had its ways, then we would forever remain a semi-colonial state with a small “Chinese” elite collaborating the “enlightened” West. We would be serfs to corporations, in the guise of participating in a “free-market democracy.”
The West has a funny way of defining freedom. When my grandfather ran a leftist bookstore in the 70s, special agents burnt it down twice. Thereafter, his employees were sentenced by kangaroo courts to decades in prison.
I really don’t see why I should defend myself for wanting my people to acquire a better navy. For wishing my people safety and protection. For loving my people.
Perhaps we simply have incompatible mentalities. For me, love for one’s people is a basic virtue. Maybe others don’t think that way. I think perhaps even an American patriot would understand my views. At least better than these two cosmopolitans with whom there’s simply no common ground.
Those who oppress good people fall and perish/
Those who attack pure hearts whom spirits cherish/
In every conflict, every hateful war/
Heaven preserves good folks both rich and poor/
People who did unrighteous deeds of yore/
Fall in despised disgrace forever more/
Red flowers grow amongst snow-laden wheat/
Like tears and stains of blood upon white sheet/
If green things grow when seas of snow retreat/
My land will blossom yet in summer heat/
*I know, because I have a family friend who was killed by an Israeli agent.
It’s like when Toby Keith said:
“I don’t apologize for being patriotic… If there is something socially incorrect about being patriotic and supporting your troops, then they can kiss my [ass] on that, because I’m not going to budge on that at all. And that has nothing to do with politics. Politics is what’s killing America.”
He is American. Therefore, my perspective is radically different from his. But at least I can respect his love for his people.
I know, in my heart, that there is nothing more natural and righteous than loving one’s parents, one’s family, one’s friends, one’s traditions, one’s heritage, one’s land, and one’s community. In the same way, there is nothing more natural and righteous than loving one’s people.
Now why should I defend myself for that?
[…] neutral, und auch nicht aktuell auf die Wahlen orientiert, ist ein Beitrag auf http://www.sinosplice.com. How Taiwan Became Chinese ist eigentlich nur eine Andeutung des Autors, er wolle das geschichtswissenschaftliche orientierte […]
“I don’t really wanna hear your answer,”
If this is the way you discuss your opinion with other people, then same back to you.
Same to you, dear CC, same to you:
And if you didn’t get the sarcasm, then I can’t help you.
Cheers to everyone,
Somehow, issues regarding social science such as politics are not that much different from physics, in the sense that a phenomenon in the physical world can achieve a state of balance when forces involved are acting and counter-acting on each other proportionately. In politics, this is what I like to call compromise. Forces involved, e.g. pro-unification, pro-independence, mainland China, the US, Japan and the broader international communities affected, all need to look after their respective interests. The outcome is the compromise which results from acting and counter-acting of the above parties with respect to what cards they, whoever they are, have and what cards the others have.
Arguing over a few adjectives/nouns does not make that much difference/sense. It is only meaningful if you can, not you think you can, talk some other parties into accepting your opinion. Unlikely. Change of forces takes time.
You won, happy now?
Or was it irony? …
I meant ‘irony’ instead of ‘sarcasm’ in my post, I can never tell the difference between the two.
You were to quick for me with your post, CC.
Anyway, I didn’t come here to win or lose an argument. I came here genuinely wanting to hear the opinion of those taking part in the discussion on an aspect of this issue that hadn’t been talked about before. Sadly, most of those that started it seem to have left sometime around when Abstract joined the discussion and moved it in a different direction. Or was it me who drove them away? Abstract and I joined in around the same time, I think… Will we ever know?
Or maybe they were just busy or bored.
“And if you didn’t get the sarcasm, then I can’t help you.”
When you are sarcastic, usually you do not say or explain to people that you are sarcastic. In this way, your supreme intelligence and masterminding of words are better ventilated.
Again, my hands up.
Yes, this conversation is clearly over and is going nowhere.
Just to point out a few things. I find it very ironic that Auntie attacked me for living by the sword and for discussing divine rights, and then she tells me to go to Israel to see how real Jews and Arabs live.
This is very ironic when you realise that Israel lives very much by the sword. I’m not going to take sides here and say whether the Palestinians or the Jews are right. But we all know that Israel routinely makes disproportionate retaliations upon the Palestinian people. This is not to mention the many pre-emptive strikes and assassinations.
Israel also sends agents around the world to pursue vengeance. For instance, with Eichmann in South America. Also with those Palestinians who did Black September. Also, to assassinate people who somehow offend Israeli “interest.” (For instance, as I mentioned above, I know a family friend who was assassinated by Israeli agents.)
We also know about the Israel Lobby. There is a lot of controversy over this subject. I’m not going to say who did what or what did whom. But if the US attacked Iran, the general consensus would be that the Israel Lobby had something to do with it. (For me, this is not at all surprising, because the few Jewish friends I have are as right-wing and nationalist as they come.)
Furthermore, Israeli settlers commonly invoke divine rights to justify their colonisation of Israel. There is also a term “Greater Israel,” based on biblical definitions, which extends to the Nile and the Euphrates. (In high-school I studied Biblical Hebrew unsuccessfully. Anyway, even the textbook discussed the Israel’s divine right to settle in former Biblical Israel, lol.)
Israel buys weapons from the US, and then resells them to China, and then with the money, Israel buys more weapons from the US. It’s pretty funny when you think about it.
If it were not for the sword, Israel would not be here today. If it were not for divine rights (or some watered-down interpretation thereof), Israel would not be here today.
(Maybe not that watered-down afterall, because several times Kabbalists invoked death curses against politicians who weren’t tough enough on the Palestinians.)
I’m not saying who did what or what did whom. Volumes have been written about these things. I’m actually very sympathetic toward Israel, because the Israelis were the first to extend their hands to China during the Reform Era. But then again, I would feel differently if I were Palestinian.
I guess it’s easy to be cosmopolitan when you never read history.
Dear Abstract, you still have the last word. I just want to repeat, in order to help make this debate less skewed, my earlier suggestion that you consider finding out more about Israelis (including Israeli Arabs, the ones who are full citizens) before you make sweeping statements about “Israelis”. Good luck — Auntie
My father was born in China and my mother is a native Indonesian. The things about the progrom in 1998 that you mentioned were not entirely true. Don’t hold any grudge because so many innocent natives died as well. I am proud to be an Indonesian Chinese and that’s what I chose to be. Everbody is different so world is so much better if we can respect any other people’s point of views. It all depends on everbody, there are many out there who still live in this sorrow due to the 1998 progrom but there are out there who get over it and move on with their lives.
Well, I think you can read history in different ways. You can either read it just to back up your own ideas with historical facts, or you could try to learn from it.
You seem to have read quite a lot on history (and seem to think no one else here has), I hope that all the catastrophies, wars and cruelties will sometime be more for you than just arguments in a discussion. They might make you want to change historical patterns for once.
All the best and the last word to you, Abstract,
It’s even funnier when you realise that the ideological foundation of modern Israel originated in Jewish diaspora nationalism. Jewish diaspora nationalism in turn originated from the recognition that Europeans will never accept Jews no matter how much they adapt to European customs.
But enough talks about Israel. I reference actual facts and statistics, whereas you keep repeating the fact that you have Jewish family members and that you have visited Israel.
There were actually many valid objections by which you could have disputed my arguments – objections which involved actual facts. But you never did.
Furthermore, it is impossible to figure out where you are coming from. For instance, you reference the fact that you have Israeli Arab acquaintances. What does that have to do with anything?
You do realise, of course, that by putting Jews on a pedestal, by treating the Jewish experience as an academic forbidden zone, in which free inquiry and analysis are taboo – you commit a subtle, reverse racism. When you do this, you are no different from Christian Zionists, who view Jews as a special pet of their Lord.
The Jews are not a weak, defenseless nation. Instead, the Jews are a vigorous, hardy people. They can fend for themselves when push comes to shove. They can fight righteous wars. Their hospitality can warm your heart, but their wrath will chill your neck. Sometimes, they overwhelm you with genuine kindness. At other times, they are downright devious.
They are proud of Israel, just as French people are proud of France, Chinese people are proud of China, and Americans are proud of America. (Although apparently, Germans aren’t proud of Germany.)
By the way, Auntie, to be Chinese, it’s not enough just to say you’re Chinese. You’re Chinese only when other Chinese people accept you as Chinese.
To be Chinese, you must have an emotional identification with other Chinese people. When other Chinese people suffer, you suffer. It doesn’t matter how far away they are. When they are hungry, you fast with them. When they are happy, you’re happy for them. When they are oppressed, you unsheath your sword to fight for them.
And Auntie, I don’t know any Chinese person who would accept you as Chinese. I don’t know any Chinese person who would associate with you if they read what you wrote in your posts.
For instance, you wrote, “if one day your glorious China tries to throw her weight around militarily and is given another bloody nose by Japan and the United States.”
I mean, it’s pretty obvious you don’t identify with the Chinese people. But such callousness toward your own people.
You’re precisely the type of person who would become a collaborator when the British occupied Hong Kong. To play at “being Chinese” in Western circles, while looking down your nose at your own people.
Actually, no righteous human from whatever nation will associate with you. How can you begin to love other peoples when you can’t even love your own? If you can’t be proud of your heritage, how can you respect other peoples’ heritages.
It’s funny, because I usually don’t even consider myself a nationalist. (Seeing as nationalism these days means trash-talking Japan.) But I sure won’t sit still while my people are oppressed in distant lands!
Yes, let us befriend other peoples. Let us share with each other the best parts of ourselves. Let us grow together and learn together, help each other in times of need and celebrate together in times of happiness.
But on our own terms. With integrity. Not as semi-colonial serfs who require the “benevolent guidance” of foreign corporations and secret services. Not as semi-colonial elites who “regret” the “backward conditions” of their people, who analyse the “failings” of their people “objectively” and “reasonably,” who bend forward and backward to imitate foreign rhetoric.
For whom any pride in one’s people is “extremism” or “chauvinism” or “communalism.” For whom any desire for a half-adequate self-defense is “militarism” and “nationalism.”
Not to mention love for one’s people. Apparently only Westerners can love their peoples. (I’m aware that Germans are not allowed to love their people, but I think the British, the French, and the Americans still manage to be patriotic.)
Again, as Toby Keith says,
“I don’t apologize for being patriotic… If there is something socially incorrect about being patriotic and supporting your troops, then they can kiss my [ass] on that, because I’m not going to budge on that at all. And that has nothing to do with politics. Politics is what’s killing America.”
The same applies to any country.
Most of my posts above are too long. So I’ll post a concluding summary, so that later readers can understand my viewpoint without reading pages upon pages.
If someone checks all my above posts, they can confirm for themselves that my central thesis is that China should get a better navy. China should get a better navy because Overseas Chinese communities often face oppression, persecution, and even massacres (e.g. in Indonesia). Since no other country has ever proved willing to protect Chinese communities, Chinese communities must band together to defend themselves. The next time Indonesia starts pogroms against Chinese communities, China should exert military pressure against Indonesia.
As soon as I expressed my viewpoint, I was attacked by two cosmopolitans – Jo and Auntie. These people regard my view as militarist and chauvinist. They say that I shouldn’t divide people into different ethnicities. According to Jo, I can’t even be proud of my country. (Jo then relates an anecdote where some German politicians were berated for saying they were proud of Germany, lol.) At one point, Auntie analysed the Indonesian situation “objectively” and ended up sympathising with the poor Indonesians who killed over 2000 Chinese people in 1998.
If you think about it, my views are very reasonable. First of all, there is no reason why China should not get a stronger navy in and of itself. (Perhaps Jo and Auntie would prefer China to get a weaker navy?) The US spends more on arms than the rest of world combined and keeps military bases all over the globe. Certainly, no country can massacre Americans and get away with it. And when Al-Qaeda killed 3000 Americans on 9/11, the US retaliated by occupying two countries and causing untold casualties. The occupation continues today.
And I never even suggested that China invade this country or another. But merely military pressure. (Like what Western countries do all the time.) Talk softly but carry a big stick. So certainly, any objective bystander should find my arguments reasonable. Especially since it would save lives.
Nevertheless, Jo and Auntie proceeded to call me names, such as nationalist, militarist, chauvinist, extremist, expansionist, jingoist, etc. The discussion veered steeply off-track when Jo and I discussed the realities of ethnicity (for him, ethnicity has no reality whatsover). It also veered off-track when Auntie contested my reference to the Jewish experience (as the stereotypical market-dominant minority and as a persecuted diaspora).
I have never expressed so reasonable a view, which is so severely condemned. I am berated for loving my people, for being proud of my people, for wanting to protect my people. These are unmentionable crimes, according to Jo and Auntie. I guess cosmopolitanism, which in its ideals promote tolerance and equality, can be used to legitimise oppression. Because when oppressed people stand up for themselves, they are criticised for “communalism” and “nationalism.” All the while oppressors maintain the status quo and continue oppressing the oppressed.
I leave you with a quotation from Toby Keith. He is American, but the sentiment applies to all peoples:
“I don’t apologize for being patriotic… If there is something socially incorrect about being patriotic and supporting your troops, then they can kiss my [ass] on that, because I’m not going to budge on that at all. And that has nothing to do with politics. Politics is what’s killing America.”
Dear LD (the Chinese Indonesian poster above) — I wish you and your family well. Thank you for helping to improve the tone of this thread with your decent tone. I think that many Southeast Asians like you and me know that life is not black and white. You sound like such a decent person, thank you. All the best — Auntie
Dear LD (the Chinese Indonesian poster above) — I wish you and your family well. Thank you for helping to improve the tone of this thread with your decent tone. I think that many Southeast Asians like you and me know that life is not black and white. You sound like such a decent person, thank you. All the best — Auntie
Since I’ve never been to Indonesia, I can only discuss what my relatives and friends tell me, as well as what I read from university research papers.
I would actually be very interested to hear what you feel is incorrect in my above statements. Please email me at Vaibhasika at hotmail dot com. Perhaps we can do a sort of interview where I send you questions over a few sessions, and you can answer them whenever you want. Or post your views here.
But I’m very sure my statistics are correct, and they are very conservative estimates, because I have compared many papers on this.
Perhaps the difference is that your mother is Indonesian? My relatives from Indonesia visit Hong Kong regularly, and they have always considered themselves Chinese, not Indonesian. I remember that they brought swallow’s nest every time they visited. Some of my poorer relatives went back to China during the fifties. So of course they are completely Chinese now.
But how did your father and mother get married? Did your father convert to Islam? Or does your mother practise Hinduism, Christianity, or some other faith?
Have you been to China? Or do you plan on visiting China in the future?
Actually, if you want to continue this discussion, just email me instead. (In the post immediately above, if you haven’t read that yet.)
I don’t want to keep arguing with Auntie and Jo anymore. Since we obviously have very different mentalities. Which cannot be gapped.
(I’m not saying cosmopolitanism is an inherently bad thing. But I think Auntie and Jo were very unfair toward me throughout the discussion. In many expatriate forums, Chinese nationalists are stereotyped as having knee-jerk reactions, but I think many people have knee-jerk reactions to pro-China views, or even the mere suggestion that some people love their country.)
I also have a website on Daoism, alchemy, magic, divination, astrology, feng-shui, etc. If anyone is interested, email for the address. I’m not going to post it in public because it’s still under construction.
BTW, Jo, Auntie, let’s just leave this subject at rest. Otherwise, when one person writes his “concluding words,” the other person feels compelled to update his “concluding words.” And then we will never be able to leave this blog.
The souls of humans dwell above the moon/
Above the dotted veil which falls at night/
Above the stars which measure heaven’s height/
Held by eternity’s unspoken tune/
And as a gesture of good will to conclude this discussion, let me offer this Sanskrit mantra:
May we be protected together/
May we be nourished together/
May we work together with great vigour/
May our study be enlightening/
May no obstacle arise between us/
Aum shaantih, shaantih, shaantih/
May goodness and mercy follow you always!
That’s lovely, Abstract. I accept it in the best spirit. May goodness and mercy follow you — and your loved ones — always, too.
auntie and jo have very mature and enlightened views of the world. they are absolutly correct when they state that it shouldnt matter the ethnicity or race of a person. if they are born in a nation state, theyshould be treated as belonging and accepted as a national of that state. unfortunately,we live in a very retarded and irrational world, where in many places, how you LOOK is more important than WHO YOU ARE.
what abstract seems to be advocating is to just accept that force and violence and inequality is a permanent system ofresolving conflict in the world and to make the chinese nation economically,militarily stronger so that ethnic chinese worldwide will not suffer so much.
but abstract youve got some parts wrong. there will always be hatred, even if china can defend her people in the future there will still be ethnic malays/indians in se asia that will discriminate agaisnt ethnic chinese. America invaded iraq and afghanistan- look how many people across the middle east (and other places)
hate america now! violent solutions will not work alone,this is why there is ‘ethnic racism’ everywhere inthe world against everyone-not just ethnic chinese.
culture with strength is as important to protect your people. a strong culture can achieve many more things to help the chinese people stand up for their rights.thats why people such as malcom X and Martin luther king, even Gandhi are still revered and admired by the ethnic communities that they were born of- because they stood up for the civil rights of their people.
abstract – you talk about the importance of a ‘strong chinese navy’ to protect ethnic chinese people. but these are just physical items, its more important for chinese minds and culture to be strong. it doesnt matter what weapons you have , if you havent got the heart and are just relying on physical size or tech superiority where will that get you?(think vietnam vs america)
you have to ask yourself abstract, why didnt ethnic chinese indonesians protect THEMSELVES during the race riots? they were among the wealthy elite of indonesia, they have connections and they can afford weapons. why didnt they fight back?
because theyre minds were weak, the didnt have the fighter mind. they werent prepared to stand theyreground and fight back, they instead ran away to australia and hk and singapore, china. their ethnic culture , identity and as a result their minds, the way they thought was weak.
strength is not only just what you have(such as a navy) but it is also
a way of thinking, regardless of your surroundings.
but abstract, you dont need to worry about protecting china and her people, chinese people make up 1/5 of theworlds ppulation- they are the worlds most populous unitary nation state they shall never be eliminated from the face of earth. if any thing the great grandchildren of all those se asians(and whites) that bullied ethnic chinese will probably be part ethnic chinese in the future.
btw i noticed abstract you said your family originally came from chaozou, same as mine-are they from shantou as well? if they are- Gaginang abstract, Gaginang, will always stand up for themselves. dont worry about what others say or do, just be strong within yourself!
Both my parents are Christians, and things worked out well between them. My father’s chinese friends had always been very accepting about the fact that my mother is a native and vice versa. I am really happy that I grew up and was taught different cultures and ethnicity. There is more out there in this world and being both I learn that I accept and love and welcome other cultures easily by understanding them and not trying to change someone else’s beliefs and points of views. And also I have been to China, although just once and still learning more about my chinese culture of course. My father’s side was a big family and I have many relatives in both Hongkong and China that I never even met in my life.
It’s good to see fellow Singaporean. I spent some of my school years there and have loved it. I really appreciate how different races can live together and harmoniously. And I really really miss fried carrot cake =)
Dear LD, I’ll be sure to eat some fried carrot cake on your behalf today. But tell me — would you like your order to be the kind with chilli oil and lots of eggs, or the dark kind with extra kecap manis? 😉
My younger brother is very happily married to a Filipina (a real “bumi”, not a Sino-Filipina). Their beautiful and happy little son, aged 2+, is 100% Peranakan Singaporean, 100% Pinoy. Don’t you love the way “family math” operates, so that nobody has to be merely “half-this and half-that”!
Historical conflict between France and Germany may have been deep enough to help fuel the Napoleonic Wars and two World Wars, yet today war between them is improbable because France and Germany are (effectively) married to each other via their membership in the European Union. And today, even Poland is “married” to Germany in this way. More than any weaponry or military might, this kind of “marriage” (based on reconciliation and integration) has finally given the main European players in WWII an enduring peace. Well, that’s just my view…
LD, here’s a nice story from the NYT that describes very well how your country has “moved on”:-
Many thanks to John Pasden, host of Sinosplice, for being gracious and allowing me to go “off-topic” in this way as a guest on his site.
Thanks for being so courteous. I knew that when I posted this topic, there was the possibility of just such a debate breaking out. Not a big deal.
I’m glad that things worked out well for you family. I too have spent some time in Singapore. I loved it. I was a kid back then. Singapore felt almost magical.
It’s good hearing from a gaginang. Although I was born in Hong Kong, my ancestry was Chaozhou/Shantou. I still speak Teochiu/Chaozhouhua at home. And I intend my posterity to speak Teochiu/Chaozhouhua until the end of time.
My family has been “professional patriots” for generations. Most became patriotic writers, guerilla fighters, revolutionaries, progressive thinkers, and even secret agents. If you look up any collected biographies of contemporary Chinese heroes, you’re likely to come across my relatives. Especially since my grandparents’ contributions are more and more recognised. Asiatimes did a tribute to my father’s father once.
Many in my family settled overseas. So we always had Southeast Asian connections. My branch of the family settled mostly in Australia and Canada.
You don’t hear the word Huaqiao a lot anymore. But that’s exactly how I see myself, as an Aiguo Huaqiao. So ever since childhood, I maintained a persistent interest in Huaqiao history. Some of the stories are very moving. Especially the ones about Chinese solidarity. I often feel very emotional just thinking about them.
I feel there’s a lot of guilt involved. For instance, before the Khmer Rouge, there were many Teochiu/Chaozhou villages in Cambodia. Now, of course they are all gone. The thing is, the Chinese embassies did nothing to help these people at the time. They must have known something bad was going on. But they did nothing to help.
I don’t blame Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge did not persecute Chinese people specifically. Instead, it was engaged in a paranoid struggle against class enemies.
But I blame the central government. I blame the central government because it never helped its kin people. Instead, government fixated on ideological purity and class struggle. Therefore, it supported the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was Maoist.
This is one reason I don’t believe in cosmopolitanism. There are few ideologies so cosmopolitan as Marxist-Leninism. It runs counter to Confucian sensibilities. It opposes the Way of Nature. I much prefer Sun Yat-Sen’s Sanmin Zhuyi. Blood is thicker than water. It’s something concrete. Mencius says, if we treat everyone as our father, then we really neglect our father.
The flip side of cosmopolitanism is individualism. Nowadays everyone is an individual. No one cares about the extended family anymore. People imagine falsely that any relation is the same. That friends can replace family.
But I can tell you that blood relations are something different. Even if you’ve only met your cousin a few times, she is still dearer to you than a co-worker you’ve known for years.
Individualism and cosmopolitanism lead to systematic oppression of the people, because power is centered on the state rather than on the clan. This is why social workers can take children away from family for the most trivial excuses. Or why counsellors can push “realistic” life choices (abortion/adoption) onto pregnant teenagers. (Surprising fact – Chinese people were much freer under the Qing Empire than under either the ROC or the PRC.)
In the old days, Overseas Chinese communities were the most patriotic. The central government misused their loyalty and then discarded them when they no longer proved useful.
For instance, the Burmese Communist Party used to have many Chinese members. Now, the Burmese Communist Party is defunct. Many old fighters are left without houses, families, and money. Some are even begging for food on the streets.
Hardly a hero’s welcome home.
I just wish Chinese nationalist organisations are more aware of these things. Then they can compel the government to remedy past injustices. (Instead being obsessed with Japan.)
One thing I would like to see before the end of my time is new laws on citizenship. We should take the best part of French and German laws. Citizenship should reflect two principles – blood and culture. First, anyone who has Chinese ancestry should be allowed to claim Chinese citizenship. Second, anyone who accepts Chinese cultural ideals should be allowed to claim citizenship.
There are some people talking about this. But there isn’t enough momentum.